Fire safety advice for Best Bar None venues

Gary Wood offers guidance on how to get ready for a Fire Safety Risk Assessment. 

 

If you are a Best Bar None venue, there are a number of responsibilities involved which you should be aware of. One of the most important is fire safety. 

Fire safety law applies to licensed premises of any type and in Scotland it is enforced by the Scottish Fire & Rescue Service and their teams of Legislative Enforcement officers.

The legislation which is relevant is the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 and Fire Safety (Scotland) Regulations 2006. A link to sector specific guidance for can be found in the resources section at the end of this article. 

As an owner or operator of a licensed premises, what are my responsibilities? 

The Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 makes you – the ‘duty holder’ or person in control of the premises to take steps to ensure the safety of persons resorting to your premises. You must:- 

  • carry out and document an FSRA - Fire Safety Risk Assessment;
  • if the outcomes of the risk assessment require it – take the necessary steps to improve your fire safety measures; and
  • review the fire safety risk assessment regularly to ensure its currency is maintained.

You may be able to carry out an FSRA yourself, particularly if your premises is small and straightforward in internal layout. 

As a rule, if your premises are of a considerable size or if they include long, unusual or complicated routes to a final exit, you will require more detailed advice on the range of fire safety arrangements that you need to consider. 

You may prefer to have someone else carry out an FSRA. There are a number of fire risk assessors available who can assist that you can pay to complete an FSRA, however you remain legally responsible for the FSRA.

The Scottish Fire & Rescue Service, being the enforcing authority, are unable to carry out FSRA’s for you. However they can offer guidance and advice on how you can achieve this and ensure your venue is safe for your staff and patrons but also legislatively compliant. 

(This advice is also available to you through Watch Manager Gary Wood at the Scottish Business Resilience Centre who is part of the BBN National Coordination Team. Email: [email protected] )

 

What is a Fire Safety Risk Assessment? 

An FSRA is a holistic assessment of your premises, the persons likely to visit your premises, staff, patrons and external contractors alike. An FSRA is based upon the risk of fire breaking out and what measures you as the duty holder require to ensure are in place to prevent that fire in the first instance and ensure the safety of those relevant persons. 

 

‘Gold Standard’ 

Under Fire Safety law in Scotland if your premises is subject to a license enacted upon it the law says you must make a written record of the significant findings of the FSRA. Keeping a concise record will save you time and effort when you come to review and update it.

It will also indicate good practice and proactive management compliance should the Scottish Fire & Rescue Service require to visit your premises. You should also regularly review your FSRA – doing so annually is good practice. 

Taking time to carry out an FSRA and act upon the findings not only ensures the safety of those within your venue but also protects your premises and increases your business resilience.

After all, your venue is a significant financial investment so it makes perfect sense to protect it as much as you possibly can. Some licensed premises who experience a significant fire incident never recover.  

 

The 5 steps of fire safety risk assessment 

Assess the fire risk within your venue and consider how to maintain the safety of your patrons within. Make a plan to improve fire safety measures within your premises. Keep a record of your FSRA and review it regularly. 

 

STEP 1: What is a fire hazard? 

Think about how a fire could start on your premises.  

Walk round your premises, both inside and out and look for hazards. Fire starts when heat comes into contact with fuel (anything that burns) and a supply of oxygen is available. You need to keep heat and fuel apart. 

With that in mind, look for: 

  • Naked flames
  • Portable heaters
  • Electrical equipment
  • Signs of smoking
  • Matches and ash trays
  • Anything else that could emit heat or anything which may cause sparks.

If you are a hotel venue, pay particular attention to kitchens and guest bedrooms and where people may use matches and candles or areas where they may smoke. 

If you are a licensed premises with no sleeping accommodation then pay attention to areas such as kitchens, store rooms, electrical cupboards (especially if as some are  located underneath a stair) and rooms with high fire loading such as spirit stores and beer cellars. 

Think about what could burn and how quickly a fire could spread.

Laundry materials, curtains, furniture and cooking oil could all burn, just like the more obvious fuels such as fuel, paint, varnish and other flammable liquids likely to be found in a licensed venue such as spirits. 

Check outside for fuel too. A common cause of fires in commercial properties is ignition of external refuse – ensure that any refuse stored externally is well away from the building, not up against it in bins or located underneath overhangs or eaves of roofs. Don’t just consider fire spread – think about whether anything external which catches fire could potentially affect the fire escape route from your premises.  

Consider your buildings construction – are walls made of brick, hardboard or chipboard? Are there polystyrene tiles on the ceiling and if so are they located within a main means of escape? 

 

STEP 2: Consider who is at risk? 

Everyone is at risk if there is a fire. 

You need to think about yourself, your staff, your patrons and anyone else who visits the premises. Some people should be considered to be at an elevated risk compared to others. For example, young children, the elderly or those with physical disabilities, mobility issues or cognitive impairments may be particularly at risk and require specific consideration. 

 

STEP 3: Consider and implement your fire action plan  

Using what you have found in STEP 1 and STEP 2 you should be able to remove or reduce any hazards identified. 

Think about whether a heat source, such as a hair dryer or hair straighteners, could fall, be knocked or pushed into something that could ignite.

Is the electrical equipment within your property modern, working properly and has it been PAT Tested recently and is your mains wiring in good serviceable condition – when was your last EICR (Electrical Inspection Condition Report) carried out? 

Electrical fires are one of the most common causes of fire in commercial premises within the UK. 

Now think about what you need to do if there is a fire on your premises How will it be detected and how will you alert people on the premises? 

For example, do you have an automatic fire detection system? Are the detectors of the correct type and in the right place? Is the system tested regularly? Can you clearly hear the alarm in each area? If a hotel - is the alarm loud enough to wake someone who is sleeping in bed?  

What action will you take to protect people on your premises and make sure everyone can find their way out in an emergency? 

You need to make sure your staff and patrons know what to do if a fire occurs. Will everyone on the premises be able to find their way out in an emergency? 

If staff lead or assist in an evacuation are they well drilled and will they know instinctively what to do? Would any escape routes benefit from emergency escape lighting? Are areas immediately outside final exits clear of obstructions and adequately lit? 

Have you practiced a fire drill? Do you have equipment to allow someone to put a small fire out and have staff had any training to allow them to do so safely? 

 

STEP 4Record, plan and train 

In any premises with a license enacted upon it, you must keep a written record of the significant findings from your risk assessment. This should include: 

  • any fire risks you have identified in STEP 1; 
  • any measures you have implemented to reduce or eliminate those risks;
  • any additional actions you require to take (Use an Action Plan and define reasonable timescales for completion, signing/dated completed actions off as they are completed).

 

STEP 5: Record, plan and train  

Your written FSRA should be seen as a helpful, living document. It’s not something that should be completed and then forgotten about and it requires to be reviewed regularly. 

  • You should review the assessment regularly and, if necessary, update it. 
  • if any changes occur in the way you use your premises, or if the layout changes, the risks may also change 
  • If any review identifies new risk, you need to ensure you consider and address these to keep your paying guests as safe as possible 
  • Your review can be as simple as asking yourself ‘Has anything changed in my venue since the last FSRA?’ – If anything has changed then you should consider if this change has impacted on your fire safety risk assessment. If there has been no change since last time then a separate ‘Review sheet’ within your FSRA which is signed, dated and has the remark ‘No changes’ added to it is sufficient – there is no need to redraft entirely an FSRA if there have been no changes. This demonstrates a responsible management attitude to fire safety. 

 

Resources and useful links

There are a number of resources available online for guidance and advice on FSRA including blank FSRA templates and example templates. You can find these here:

 

You can also contact your local SFRS Legislative Fire Safety Enforcement Officer for guidance and advice on FSRA and general fire safety measures.

 

For further information on FSRA within BBN Licensed venues, contact your local SFRS Fire Safety Officer or Watch Manager Gary Wood SFRS, Senior Business Resilience Officer, Scottish Business Resilience Centre – [email protected] 

 

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