Re-assessing the Risk of Fire in Commercial Buildings
Following a reported increase in fire-related incidents in commercial buildings in the UK during the Covid-19 pandemic, MSL Property Care Services is cautioning owners of commercial premises to be extra vigilant.
According to the company, commercial buildings which have been left unattended during the pandemic are likely to have deteriorated, creating increasingly hazardous environments for returning staff and visitors.
Recent data indicates there has been a reversal in the decline in commercial building fires reported across the country since 2011 following the pandemic, which has prompted fire and rescue services to advise building owners and operators to undertake new fire risk assessments prior to reopening premises.
Jeremy Harrison, MSL managing director, observes: "The Fire Regulatory Reform (2005), states that those responsible for fire safety, can include various personnel such as the property owner, landlord, employer, occupier or facility manager, and it’s crucial that those people are educated on fire safety for the premises.
"The correct training and safety plans should be in place, and businesses should consult professionals where needed to ensure the safety of all occupants."
Top causes of commercial fires
Electrical and Lighting Fixtures
Issues, such as faulty fuses, loose connections, overloaded circuits, and defective wiring can all lead to fires breaking out within commercial properties. It’s important to have regular professional checks of wires and fixtures, especially if you suspect a hazard.
When used over prolonged periods of time or left unused, heating systems can be at risk of faults, leading to overheating and consequently fires. It’s essential that systems are regulated, switched off or set to timers before leaving the premises along with ensuring that they are inspected regularly for any faults.
Exposure to Flammable Materials
Exposure to flammable sources, such as cladding, chemicals, spray paint, alcohols, and foil increases the risk of a fire outbreak. Whilst many facilities and businesses will consciously and carefully store flammable materials away, some materials cannot avoid exposure. Here, it’s important to assign a facilities management professional to assess materials, such as cladding and wood throughout the property.
Kitchen apparatus is the biggest cause of fire breakouts within commercial properties, with kitchen appliances accounting for an estimated 41 per cent of all fires. Whilst restaurants are most at risk, many businesses have cooking appliances on the premises, such as microwaves, toasters and kettles therefore it’s important these are all tested for safety.
How can you mitigate fires?
Remove fire hazards
Invest in safeguarding inspections to ensure that any fire hazards are identified and mitigated. These checks should be routinely carried out and implementing them within your planned maintenance schedule will ensure this happens.
Update your fire safety plan
Regularly revaluating the property, both internally and externally, is important so that the correct measures are put in place should a fire break out. It is also crucial that all staff and other facility users are aware of this plan.
All regular facility users should have fire safety training before occupying the property. Should your safety plan change, the responsible person(s) should carry out this training again.
Install or update your fire safety systems
Fires can spread at rapid rates, so installing fire safety systems, such as fire alarms, sprinklers, fire doors and extinguishers is a key. It is just as important to implement regular checks, which can be carried out by facility professionals to ensure these are working correctly.