Assessing the fire risks of your restaurant, pub and social club

It is hard enough to operate a successful business in today’s world without the complications that accidents and other unwanted incidents can lead to. Although they have their differences, restaurants, public houses, social clubs and similar premises, share many common hazards. Risk management involves their identification, and evaluation, followed by the introduction of elimination or control measures, with subsequent audit and review of these.

We hope that by using this guide, specific to restaurants, pubs and social clubs, it will help you to identify some of the hazards that your business or club may face, enabling you to put into place suitable controls or otherwise take action to avoid the hazards by the most economic means.

Not all losses are insured and research shows that uninsured losses by way of time lost, loss of goodwill and disruption can be significant.

Basic risk management techniques can therefore be invaluable. You will probably have already put into place some measures to control the physical risks.

In this booklet we have included a selection of possible improvements for you to consider which, if appropriate, may help you take further steps in your journey towards establishing an even safer business.

Fire and Explosion
A fire can not only put lives at risk, but also have a devastating effect on a business. It is believed that at least half of all fires in non-residential premises are caused by children, vandals or malicious persons. The nature of the area in which premises are located can vary from isolated rural positions to city centres. Some inns have designated bedrooms in which guests can smoke and customers may smoke outside close to buildings. Cooking is a common feature in this trade sector. These are just a few of the factors which can lead to a greater risk of fire.

This section includes guidance on the following:

  • Fire Risk Assessment
  • External Storage and the Arson Risk
  • Electrical Hazards
  • Smoking
  • Heating
  • Kitchens and Cooking Areas
  • Fire Alarms and Fire Detection Systems
  • Thatched Roofs
  • Disaster Recovery Planning

Fire Risk Assessment
Legislation requires you to have had a fire risk assessment of your premises completed by, or with the help of a competent person. This assessment needs to be recorded. By this assessment you will need to have identified those measures necessary to reduce the risk of death and injury to any employees, members and other persons on the premises, in particular persons with disabilities, the young, elderly, infirm or other vulnerable groups. Reducing the risk of fire, for life safety purposes, will also be of benefit to the business.

  • Make sure that you are aware of, and comply with, where applicable, the fire safety legislation applicable to the country that your premises are located in e.g. Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order for England and Wales, Fire (Scotland) Act and the Fire Safety (Scotland) Regulations 2006 for Scotland, etc.
  • Ensure that you have appointed a competent person to undertake, or help you prepare a fire risk assessment, as required under legislation and that it has been recorded, in detail.
  • Ensure that the fire risk assessment is both suitable and sufficient and includes the potential fire and explosion risks, dangerous substances, likely fire spread, what appropriate fire control and protection measures are needed e.g. fire-fighting equipment, fire alarm and fire detection systems, escape routes, signage, emergency lighting, emergency and evacuation procedures, training etc.
  • Check that your fire risk assessment and fire precautions cover not only the everyday storage of things which may increase the fire risk, or help a fire to spread more rapidly e.g. LPG gas cylinders, oil including cooking oil etc, but also those which may occur only occasionally or are seasonal e.g. Christmas lights and decorations, barbecues, etc.
  • If there is more than one “responsible person” with fire safety responsibilities for the building that you occupy, either because you share it, or the building is owned by another party etc, make sure that you liaise regarding the significant points identified by your fire risk assessments, and the preventive and protective measures necessary to provide an appropriate level of fire safety in the building.
  • Provide your employees with the information they are legally entitled to e.g. details of the risks to them, which have been identified by the fire risk assessment, the preventive and protective measures arranged and the names of the competent persons involved with fire safety including those involved with emergencies and evacuation procedures, etc.
  • Similarly make sure that other relevant persons such as any self employed persons, or contractors/contractors employees who work at your premises are provided with relevant information of this type.
  • Review the Fire Risk Assessment regularly and particularly when significant changes arise or other circumstances which may make it out of date. Record the new assessment.
  • Ensure that any additional fire precautions that either the initial assessment, or any subsequent reassessment reveal to be needed are implemented without delay
  • Where the premises includes sleeping accommodation, ensure that a suitable fire detection and warning system, designed, installed, tested and maintained to BS 5839, incorporating automatic fire detection, sounders and manually operated call points(break glass boxes), is provided. The BS 5839 design category used should be determined by a competent person in conjunction with the fire risk assessment for the premises.
  • Make sure that the fire extinguishing appliances needed i.e. as identified by the fire risk assessment or as required under any existing statutory or regulatory licence or certificate, have been provided and are located at the places or fire points specified.
  • Ensure that employees have received appropriate training by a competent person on fire safety matters including types and safe proper use of fire extinguishers.

External Storage and the Arson Risk
As already mentioned it is believed that at least half of all fires in non residential premises are caused by children, vandals or malicious persons. Waste bins, skips, rubbish and similar combustible goods left outside are particularly prone to ignition. If close to the building when lit a fire can quickly spread inside.

  • Keep the amount of loose easily moveable combustible goods in the grounds to the smallest amount possible, particularly when the premises are unattended. Use secure buildings or containers for the storage of such goods if possible.
  • Secure mobile waste bins away from the buildings. Where space is limited ensure that the bins have lockable lids and these are locked when the premises are unattended.
  • If you have a waste skip ensure that is it placed well away from the buildings. Where space is limited and the skip has to be placed close to a building ensure that the skip is a totally enclosed steel type with lockable doors which you can lock when the premises are unattended.
  • Don’t allow rubbish or litter to be burnt, either on a bonfire or in an incinerator.
  • The risk of ignited materials being “posted” through the letterbox of an external door is believed, based on past events, to be significantly higher in licensed premises. Where possible protect the inside of such an opening with a suitable independently tested fire resistant box to receive the mail and ideally one which includes an automatic fire extinguisher.

Electrical Hazards
Electrical faults, incorrectly installed electrical installations and poorly maintained electrical appliances are believed to be a major cause of fire in non-residential premises. Ensuring that electrical installations are properly installed by a competent person and maintained along with portable electrical appliances should reduce your risk of suffering a fire.

Smoking is now illegal in most buildings which are workplaces or to which the public have access. Persons who manage premises have obligations under this legislation. Employees also need to be trained. Make sure that you are familiar with the regulations for the country that your premises are in, and that the necessary signs are displayed at all entrances, and elsewhere if required.

  • Take care to ensure that any smoking shelters outside are both safely located and sufficiently open sided that they are legal. Before installing new signs, bins, smoking shelters, awnings etc outside review your fire risk assessment, so that it considers the proposals, and check with the local authority, that what you want to do, will be acceptable.
  • Check that you have the correct type of smoking ban signs at each entrance to the premises. Use tamper-resistant fittings. Check regularly to make sure that signs have not been removed, damaged or defaced.
  • Check that any existing smoking shelters are sufficiently open sided to be legal. Do not take into account covers, awnings, doors, windows or other things that can be closed when calculating the area of permanent ventilation openings provided. If you are not sure then check with your local authority.
  • Avoid using combustible materials in smoking shelters (including their floors). Keep shelters at least 1.5 metres away from other buildings, 5 metres away if they have a combustible roof, and at least 10 metres out if they are mostly made from combustible materials.
  • Existing and new employees provided with training on smoking ban legislation, and safe procedures for dealing with persons who are smoking. Training recorded and signed for.
  • For designated guest bedrooms which are not “smoke-free” make sure that ashtrays in that room are emptied daily into a suitable lidded metal container for removal from the premises, and not mixed in with other rubbish.

In order to minimise the risk of fire it is important to ensure that any heating appliances are of a safe and suitable type for the building and the environment in which they are to be used; also that they are in good working order.

  • Ensure that heating appliances have been installed in accordance with the manufacturers instructions.
  • Ensure, where appropriate, that heating appliances are being serviced and maintained in accordance with the manufacturers instructions.
  • Avoid, where possible, the use of portable or mobile heating appliances. Where these are used ensure that your insurance broker or agent is aware of the fact.
  • Do not allow goods to be stored on or against boilers. Ensure that boiler cupboards are kept clear of storage. Protect heaters in storage areas by suitable guard rails or protective cages.
  • Do not permit storage on top of wall mounted heaters such as electric night storage heaters or electric convector heaters. Where such storage is likely consider fitting either sloping non-combustible guards over the heaters or suitable shelves at a safe height above them
  • Ensure that heaters including any flue or fume pipes are not located or used close to combustible materials. Make sure that any heaters which have hot surfaces are suitably guarded in areas where children may be present.
  • Ensure, in conjunction with your heating engineers, that any oil fired heating appliances, which are supplied from a storage tank, are fitted with a suitable fire valve on the supply pipe between the tank and the boiler/heating appliance.
  • Ensure that boilers, warm airspace heaters, and similar large heating appliances, are the subject of a service and maintenance agreement with appropriate heating engineers.
  • Provide a suitable non-combustible fire guard for any open fire places which are still in use.
    Make sure that they are used at all times when the room is to be left unattended (if the fire has been alight) and at the end of the day. Have chimneys professionally swept at least annually, twice per year if logs or wood are burned on the fire regularly
  • Ensure that any LPG fuelled “patio” heaters are only used outdoors, by trained persons, in accordance with the manufacturers instructions and the procedures set out in the UKLPG “User Information Sheet 004”(Formerly LPGA Technical Memorandum NO.64)“LPG Patio heaters-safe use”. Make sure that they are not used close to umbrellas or under an awning, unless the manufacturers instructions permit this, taking care to maintain any necessary clearances
  • Where you are planning to use LPG patio heaters, use a model which incorporates a tilt safety shut-off device which will cut off the supply of gas if the heater leans or tips over
  • Do not allow patio heaters to be moved when alight. Include this in employee training
  • Have gas appliances, including LPG fuelled heaters, inspected and serviced at least annually by a suitable Gas Safe™ registered firm or Gas Safe™ registered engineer.
  • This article originally appeared on Allianz.