fire risk assessments
A few weeks ago The Woods restaurant and bar in Chapel Allerton, Leeds suffered a fire that resulted in over 40% of it being damaged. It’s been forced to close while repairs take place. Thankfully no one was injured. But the incident is one among many that illustrates how workplace fires can have many significant consequences for a business and why it’s so important that everything possible is done to reduce the risk of them breaking out. Because otherwise the disruption and difficulty that follows can be considerable and cause a whole host of problems:
  • Impact on employees
A fire can affect employees in many different ways. If they’re around at the time of the fire, they could suffer directly from injuries sustained as a result of it. On top of all the distress in itself, they may be absent for a period of time, requiring you to organise, train and pay replacement staff while also covering sick pay. If the investigation identifies you had not fulfilled all your fire prevention obligations, you may also find yourself facing compensation claims from those employees. Even if they weren’t there at the time of the fire, it affects others too. Short term, there may be no work to go to depending on the nature and level of damage to your premises. Longer term, a severe fire could lead to job losses. Even if staff are back to work quite quickly, they can feel demoralised. If they feel unsafe or upset, they may be reluctant to come into work, particularly if the fire was partly due to failures to put all the necessary fire prevention steps in place. That can decrease productivity and affect the standard of service you’re providing to your customers.
  • Legal costs and prosecution
A fire in your workplace is likely to be investigated to determine its cause. The investigation will consider whether suitable and sufficient fire safety measures were in place. If you are shown to have been neglectful, you may face expensive legal costs, fines and even a jail sentence.
  • Lost custom
A business that’s been closed due to fire is almost inevitably going to be a business that’s losing custom. Not only during the closure but afterwards too. Even if the fire wasn’t your fault, it’s not great for your reputation. And if it was found to have been due to your shortcomings, or failure to put adequate steps in place, it can leave your business name in tatters.
  • Damage to the building and equipment
Obviously when a fire occurs, there’s potential for at least some damage to the structure of the building. If it’s a very severe fire, the building could be weakened, and need significant repair work before being signed off as safe for you and your employees to return back to work. Even if the structure is ok, you may still have lost vital equipment. Of course your reliance on equipment will vary depending on your business, and its damage might only be a temporary inconvenience. But at its worst, losing a vast quantity of fire-damaged equipment can be enough to bring a business to its knees. Insurance can help up to a point – depending on the cover you have and the circumstances of the fire. But if the fire was partly due to you having inadequate preventative measures in place you could end up covering some or even all of the costs yourself. And a substantial claim could result in increased future premiums.
  • Loss of data and documents
The damage to the equipment can be bad enough. But for many businesses it’s the loss of all the data and physical documentation that can spell the end for them following a fire. If computers, servers, files and documents have been destroyed, you could lose a huge quantity of data and work already completed. Have you done everything you can to avoid a fire in your business? These are just some of the potential problems a fire in your business could lead to. But it doesn’t stop there. There could be a potential ‘ripple’ effect as people and businesses in your supply chain are hit, and communities and your immediate business neighbours are disrupted. To protect yourself and others, it’s essential you do everything possible to reduce the risk of fire and that starts with carrying out a comprehensive fire risk assessment to understand where you are vulnerable. Only once you’ve identified all that are you in a position to do something about it – and to start thinking about fire prevention processes and systems in terms of asset protection and investing in your business continuity. If you feel you need some professional guidance about minimising fire risks in your business, please get in touch with us for some advice about how we can help you.