hospitality sector fire safety

The hospitality sector has had a tumultuous time throughout the pandemic and even as it started to re-open, it continued to face many challenges with stringent requirements needing to be met to stay Covid safe. The ongoing easing of restrictions hopefully now means that things are improving for the sector, but it still isn’t automatically plain sailing.

One of the issues hospitality businesses are having to deal with is the need to bring in new staff, many of whom might not only be new to them but also to the sector as a whole. That inevitably means training is needed. And it must include making sure staff fully grasp the importance of fire safety and the part they need to play in reducing the risks identified in the fire risk assessment.

There are many potential hazards regarding hospitality sector fire safety and while the nature and depth of the training will depend on an employee’s role and level of responsibility for fire safety management, everyone should have a sound appreciation of the dangers that are common within the sector including the following:

  • Kitchen-based hazards

Virtually all hospitality environments have kitchens and to some extent the risks should be obvious – but that doesn’t mean they should be skimmed over during training. Sometimes it’s the most familiar risks that are the easiest to overlook. As well as hazards like the risk of ignition of cooking oil when it’s being heated, highlight the importance of the safe storage of materials that are highly combustible, keeping them away from heat sources as far as possible.

  • Faulty electrical equipment

Kitchens have a lot of electrical equipment in them; as well as hobs, there will be a variety of other equipment such as fridges and freezers and smaller appliances. And hospitality premises will probably have a whole host of other types of electrical items in areas outside the kitchen too. So stress the importance of being aware of any signs of potential problems – unusually warm plugs or damaged cables for example – that might suggest there’s an issue. Make sure employees know who to raise any concerns with so they are dealt with quickly. It’s also wise to train employees in a close-down routine where applicable, turning off any appliances that don’t need to be left running.

  • Poor housekeeping

Staff have a key role to play when it comes to housekeeping and making sure that the premises remain tidy. As well as being important for meeting the obvious hygiene requirements, a cluttered environment increases the fire risk as well as the danger that people would be unable to quickly evacuate a building if there was a fire. Make sure employees understand that items should not be left close to exit routes and should instead be disposed of correctly in a designated area. Again, highlight the importance of safely storing materials in the correct location, especially those which are highly combustible.

Do employees know how to use fire safety equipment correctly?

It’s crucial that staff understand how to use fire safety equipment in the right way. They need to be aware of the different types of fire extinguishers located in your premises and know how to discharge them safely and effectively.  Staff also need to recognise there may be situations where they should not attempt to fight a fire and must be able to quickly raise the alarm and play their role in evacuating the building. Make sure they understand about more passive elements of fire protection too and how their actions can affect it: for example, propping fire doors open.

Supervisory employees might have more specific fire safety duties too, like testing the equipment periodically, so make sure they are absolutely clear about what is expected of them. Make no assumptions and help them to feel comfortable checking with management if they have any questions.

Try to keep fire safety at the forefront of all employees’ minds. Talk about it in briefings and handover meetings and during any other opportunities that arise. Induction training is vital, but fire safety should also be part of day-to-day conversations as well to encourage good habits.

Your fire risk assessment is your ‘master plan’

Effective training requires there to be an up-to-date fire safety risk assessment, providing every hospitality business with the overview from which its entire approach to managing risk must cascade from. Taking steps to then minimise or eliminate those risks is absolutely essential – businesses that don’t meet their obligations could potentially face severe penalties. If you would like some guidance about carrying out a fire risk assessment and managing the fire safety risks within your hospitality business then please don’t hesitate to contact us.