Keep your seasonal staff safe this Christmas: How to conduct a fire risk assessment

17 December 2021

Warehouses across the UK are set to be busier than ever this Christmas. With the huge rise in online shopping, warehouses are busy places to be at any time of year, but never more so than during the run up to Christmas. With this in mind, it’s more important than ever to take steps to keep your staff safe this Christmas, and the best place to start is by conducting a fire risk assessment of your warehouse.

Here we will go through the process of a warehouse fire risk assessment.

1. Identify Fire Hazards

As a first step, you should identify all possible fire hazards within your warehouse.

Pay close attention to identifying sources of ignition (anything that could start a fire). Some examples of common ignition sources include matches, lighters, cigarettes, and any naked flame. Sparks can also ignite fires, as can and machinery or vehicles which produce heat. Faulty electrics and equipment can also be a fire hazard, as can extractor fans if they are not properly maintained. Even conventional heat sources such as HVAC and radiators can become a danger if they are covered or their ventilation is blocked. Similarly, lighting can also be a risk factor if left on for too long. 

You should also look to identify any potential sources of fuel that could help a fire to catch and spread. Fuel sources commonly found in warehouse environments include flammable liquids, solvents, and chemicals, including cleaning products. Waste products such as shredded paper and wood shavings are also possible sources of fuel and should be cleaned up properly. Of course, paper and packaging are found in the majority of warehouses and can be highly flammable materials. You should also be aware that stored goods (and the methods used to store them such as pallet racking) can also be a source of fuel. An important part of your fire risk assessment is taking precautions to ensure that any potential fuel sources do not come into contact with any live ignition sources.

2. Identify people at risk

The second part of the process of a warehouse fire risk assessment is to identify the people in and around the premises who may be at risk in the event of a fire.

Firstly, evaluate where all staff and visitors are likely to be in the event of a fire, and ensure that there is a clear and safe route out of the building from each location where people are likely to be.

You must take into account that some people on site (for example visitors) may not be familiar with fire procedures and evacuation routes, so all routes should be clearly marked as a fire exit. This is even more important at Christmas time, when many warehouses employ seasonal staff or temps to bolster staff numbers in the busy period before Christmas. While all employees should be trained in fire safety upon commencing employment, those who are new to the business are likely to be less familiar with the layout of the premises, which reinforces the need for clear and accurate signage to keep staff safe at this time of year.

3. Review your fire safety protocols

Your fire safety protocols should consist of these 3 critical steps:

Evaluate the risk of the fire

Whilst arson is unfortunately a hazard that we need to consider, the fact remains that most fires start by accident. This could be a simple human error such as forgetting to extinguish something, or dropping a match. Negligence – such as poor cleaning – is also a common cause of fire. Employee training and reporting incidents promptly are also key factors in reducing the risk of fire.

Reduce your risks

Identifying fire hazards (as discussed above) allows you to take action to help risks. For example, you can remove sources of ignition and fuels such as the ones identified earlier in this article. You can also ensure proper cleaning of the warehouse and maintenance of equipment.

Once you’ve identified the people at risk and where they’re likely to be, you can plan clear and safe fire exit routes, and even alter layout if necessary to make evacuation easier and faster. You should consider clear signing and emergency lighting if required.

And of course, one of the key ways to reduce risks is by installing early detection and warning systems.

Assess the outcomes of fire

Even with the most robust fire risk assessment and protocols in place, there is still a chance that fire can happen in any warehouse. With this in mind, you need to be prepared with a plan for what you will do in the event of a fire to ensure people are not put at risk. Modelling should be employed to predict the path of flames and smoke, and how this will impact the routes people use to evacuate the premises, as well as the time it will take for the fire to spread between rooms. This may sound like a daunting task, but a qualified fire safety consultant will be able to help you to ensure you get it right. Make sure that any consultant you work with provides BAFE approved fire risk assessments.

In conclusion

With Christmas approaching, it’s never been more important to ensure that your warehouse is as safe as it can possibly be for your employees. By undertaking a thorough fire risk assessment and setting the correct protocols in place, you are making your warehouses a safer place to be for everyone.

If you need help conducting your fire risk assessment, there are professional fire safety consultants who can support you through the process. Total Fire Group conduct an average of 2,000-2,500 fire risk assessments each year and have been certified by the National Security Inspectorate (NSI) for the BAFE SP205 Life Safety Fire Risk Assessment Scheme. They can help ensure that your fire risk assessment is conducted thoroughly and safely. 


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