Christmas is often a busy time for businesses, but you don’t want to add stress to the holiday season by forgetting about fire safety. Fortunately, we’ve put together some handy advice that will help you have a profitable, enjoyable and safe Christmas:
Fire Risk Assessment
Over the festive period they may be changes in the way your premises and business are conducted away from the normal operating times. This is a good time to review your fire risk assessment (FRA) to take account of the temporary operating period where the risk may increase. If necessary add a temporary additions page to your FRA, takes account of the measures which may need to be applied during this time, such as:
• Exhibitions or displays relating to Christmas which may take up room, or extra contractors or outside organisations.
• Groups of children may be on your premises i.e. Santa’s Grotto which may need more supervision in an evacuation situation.
• Do not exceed your occupancy figures, checked against the fire risk assessment and if they are not available, contact your risk assessor for a figure.
Christmas tree with lights
When decorating your premises with a Christmas tree with lights ensure you have had them portable appliance tested (PAT) by a competent person. If they have been stored in a cupboard or a warehouse for over a year and missed the PAT testing inspection, then get them tested!
• Do not place hot lights next to flammable materials.
• Only use lights that conform to British Standards (BS EN 60598).
• Don’t use indoor lights outside, as they will not be resistant to moisture.
• Avoid overloading electrical sockets and trailing cables across floors, where they can be damaged or cause trip hazards.
• Ensure there is a transformer between the plug and the lights.
• Use an RCD on outdoor electrical equipment (a safety device that can save lives by instantly switching off the power if there is a fault).
• Do not block an emergency exit with your tree or cover over any emergency exit signs or fire point signage.
Take care with office decorations and trees. Always use flame resistant/fire retardant products.
• Avoid decorations made of light tissue paper or cardboard as these can burn easily.
• Don’t attach decorations to lights or heaters as this is an ignition source.
• Metal strip type decorations must not be fastened to or in close proximity to, any electrical fitting as they may conduct electricity.
• Don’t obstruct emergency signs and notices when putting up decorations.
• Do not place decorations of any kind around PC equipment, as this will inhibit the airflow.
As an alternative to candles, fairy lights are a great way to make your business premises and particularly windows look festive and create a festive atmosphere, but make sure you follow crucial fire safety tips.
• Check the fuses are the right type and replace all blown bulbs.
• Don’t let the bulbs touch anything that can burn easily, like paper.
• Don’t overload sockets.
• Remember to turn off fairy lights when you leave.
• Flame effect battery operated candles are another great alternative.
Electrical faults in appliances
Electrical faults in appliances are the second largest cause of fire within domestic, industrial and commercial properties in the UK.
Electrical guidance when using festive lights and decorations:
• Lights must conform to British or European standards (look for a BS or CE number on the transformer) – British standard BS EN6059.
• Be supplied with electricity through a transformer that reduces the voltage to 24v or less.
• Be examined each year before use, to ensure they are in good condition, with no exposed wiring and the correct rated fuse.
• Be earthed unless it is ‘double-insulated’ (it will show a symbol of a square inside a square) – is there one?
• Be extra vigilant of extra portable heaters brought into the work place that might be close to furnishings or other flammable materials
Extra Stock or Storage over the Christmas period
Increase your sales to the maximum over this profit-making season must not be at the expense of Fire safety.
• Extra stock, ensure you have capacity to store safely without blocking the means of escape or any fire exit doors or impinge upon any fire door which has to be kept clear or closed.
• Make sure you’re new and extra staff know the importance of not storing stock in the means of escape and managers check their means of escape at regular intervals when new stock is arriving.
• Ensure that Managers do not order extra stock where there is no space for it to be stored safely, or the main warehouses delivering extra stock without checking that there is space for it in the building first.
Changes (new staff, more people on the premises and space taken up with stock or festive decorations) over and leading up to the Christmas period, ensure that people can get out in a timely and safe manner.
• Check your business has an evacuation plan in place and it has been regularly reviewed, especially for the Christmas period.
• A fire emergency evacuation plan is a legal requirement and normally takes the form of a written document, which includes the actions to be taken by all staff and nominated persons in the event of a fire and arrangements for calling the fire brigade.
• For small premises this could take the form of a simple fire action sign posted in the locations where staff and relevant persons can read it and become familiar with its contents.
• High risk or large premises will need a more detailed emergency evacuation plan which takes account of the findings in the fire risk assessment e.g. staff at significant risk and their location. In addition, notices giving clear and concise instructions of the routine to be followed in case of fire should be prominently displayed.
• It is imperative you ensure your escape routes are kept clear at all times.