Retailers’ fire Safety Advice

Retail business owners have a responsibility to employees and customers to reduce the risk of fire hazards. They must also have a clear evacuation strategy in place in the event of a fire breaking out.

Risk assessments are required by law to identify potential hazards and reduce the risks. Failure to comply will result in serious penalties under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. The legal penalty for not completing the fire risk assessment can be severe – there can be large fines or even prison sentences of up to two years.

Fire engine

© Nataliia Zhekova /


Potential safety hazards within retail

Within retail premises, there are multiple potential sources of a fire. These should be considered when you do a fire risk assessment.

Storing combustible waste is a fire hazard. If you let it pile up and don’t dispose of it correctly, it can become a serious risk. This includes packing materials such as cardboard boxes, tissue paper, plastic bags, polystyrene nodules and other combustible materials.

You should store retail waste in lidded, locked bins to minimise the risks of them coming into contact with an open flame. A carelessly discarded cigarette at the back door could be all it takes to cause a blaze!

If the building is old or worse for wear, there could also be related fire hazards such as faulty electrical wiring. The electrical system should be subject to regular checks and maintenance to minimise the risks.

The staff kitchen is also a potential hazard. The appropriate ventilation system must be installed, and fire-fighting equipment, such as extinguishers and blankets, should be provided. Employees must be trained in the correct fire safety procedures, including how to deal with different types of fire such as electrical and grease.


Most common causes of retail fires

The retail environment has the highest fire risk of all business premises in the UK, according to the Common Causes of Fire in the Workplace study.

Statistics revealed that out of around 22,000 fires in non-dwelling buildings over 12 months, some 3,000 took place in retail distribution centres. The second-highest number of fires (2,500) took place in industrial premises, while 2,200 occurred in restaurants, cafes, wine bars, pubs and takeaways.

Three-quarters of all fires were accidental, while the remaining 25% were arson. Sadly, 17 fatalities in one year were caused by fires on business premises.

A massive 2,000 fires were caused by the misuse of equipment, particularly in the staff kitchen. Employers are advised to ensure employees are properly trained in using any equipment. In addition, risk assessments must be carried out on a regular basis on the use of potentially hazardous equipment.

Electrical faults in appliances and leads caused 25% of accidental fires. Problems included overloaded circuits and sockets, a lack of maintenance and shoddy workmanship.

The fire service says one of the biggest causes of fires in the workplace is simply human error. Whether people are using equipment incorrectly or leaving cooking unattended in the kitchen area, employee negligence could lead to a fire. Even something simple, such as a slice of bread getting stuck in the toaster, can start a blaze.

You can’t remove human error from the workplace altogether, but you can ensure staff are properly trained and given the correct advice when it comes to best practices.


What measures are in place for disabled people?

In the event of a fire in retail premises, it’s important that measures are in place to help disabled staff and customers exit the building safely. The UK government has specific guidelines in place to ensure disabled people can escape from the premises.

For most people, when a fire alarm is activated, they will leave by the nearest exit. A disabled person who needs help to escape should be offered options for assistance and must be given suitable instructions. The management is required to keep the escape routes free from obstruction and to ensure specific fire escapes are clearly signposted.

It must also be taken into account that a visually impaired person might not be able to locate the exit signs and may not be aware of how to leave the building in an emergency. It is imperative that they are not left to wait for the fire and rescue services, or it could be too late.


Importance of automatic doors

While automatic doors are invaluable for providing disabled access to retail stores, they can be equally important when it comes to escaping in the event of a fire. The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 underpins the current fire safety legislation, the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

Employers providing services to the public must take the necessary precautions, and make it their responsibility to ensure everyone, including people with a disability, can leave the building safely in the event of a fire.


Enhanced safety precautions

Automatic Access can help with fire hazards, thanks to our sliding and swing automatic doors that can be programmed to be opened for ease of exit or closed for smoke/oxygen control when the fire alarm is active, based on customer requirements.

Sliding automatic doors compliant with the safety standard BS EN 16005 must have an emergency battery back-up incorporated into the system and can be connected to the fire alarm.

Swing automatic doors can have a battery backup installed as an added feature if required and can also be connected to the fire alarm.

For further details of how our automatic doors can help retail business owners in the event of a fire, please contact us today.