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Check your premises are legal during Business Safety Week say Hereford & Worcester Fire and Rescue Service

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Hereford & Worcester Fire and Rescue Service is encouraging businesses to check they are complying with the law and really reducing their fire risk during the National Fire Chiefs Council’s Business Safety Week 2020 - especially when planning a return to offices after homeworking.

Business Safety Week runs from 7 – 13 September and aims to provide those with responsibility for businesses and public buildings, with information and advice to reduce the number of fire incidents and false alarms in the workplace. Both of these can have an impact on business safety and productivity.

The week encourages all businesses to ensure they have taken the steps required by law to protect their business and employees from fire, as well as guarding against arson attacks, reducing false alarms, and to reach out for fire safety advice for premises with sleeping accommodation adjacent or above them.

During the last ten years (1 April 2010 – 31 March 2020), there have been 1,174 fires in business premises in the HWFRS area, an average of 117 per year and 10 per month, with the most common cause being faults in equipment or appliances. This accounted for almost 22% of incidents.

In the same period, the Service attended 7,425 False Alarms originating from business premises, meaning that over the 10-year period, one in six incidents in a business premise resulted in a fire.

The week is therefore an opportunity for businesses to receive advice and help from Hereford & Worcester Fire and Rescue Service if they are finding it a challenge to understand their responsibilities or know that they are not meeting them.

Each business has a legal responsibility to carry out a fire risk assessment which will identify the measures needed to keep their premises safe from fire and keep the people working in, and using, the premises safe from fire.

This is especially important in view of coronavirus, as businesses and services seek to ensure they are complying with the law and reduce their risk of fire, particularly as lockdown measures ease and more people return to the workplace.

A particular risk is that that the COVID Secure measures required in order to open some premises, may compromise fire safety measures.

Group Commander Stuart Crebbin, Head of the Hereford & Worcester Fire and Rescue Service Community Risk department, said: “Running a business is challenging at the best of times and you must have a fire risk assessment.

”But COVID - 19 has brought added pressures this year, particularly as businesses start to plan their return to the workplace for many of their staff.

“We want to help firms and other services ensure that the practical measures they put in place to make premises COVID-19 safe, such as social distancing for staff and customers, do not impact on fire safety measures in the workplace.

“It is vital that we work with those responsible in law for fire safety, such as employers, managers and supervisors, to remind them that in managing their full suite of risks, the need to maintain a fire risk assessment is a legal requirement.”

Top tips to bear in mind include:

  • New screens must not obstruct smoke detection
  • Businesses must have enough trained staff to support evacuation procedures
  • Ensure measures to support social distancing do not impact evacuation procedures or the ability of emergency services to help you
  • Protect your business from arson
  • Help your fire service by reducing false alarms – which currently account for about 40% of all emergency callouts.

Group Commander Crebbin added: “In 2019/20, there were 99 fires in business premises in our area, and while it is encouraging that this figure is almost 19% lower than the figure of 122 in 2010/11, it still means that there is considerable work still to do.

“Just call us any time between 09:00 and 17:00 on 0800 032 1155, and speak to one of our experts for help and advice.”