How to Freeze Fire Hazards in Your Business this Winter

As we head into the colder months, you’ll likely be considering making some adjustments within your business to keep the workplace warm and keep your employees safe and content.

There are several proven benefits to maintaining a warm workplace, including:

  • A boost in work productivity
  • Enhanced employee satisfaction
  • A less chance of distraction and discomfort
  • Reduced sickness and absenteeism

Despite these major benefits, it’s important that you check your fire safety measures are sufficient before you go ahead and turn the heating up. Warmth isn’t everything – you also need to be considering the safety of your employees at every step.

So, to keep your employees productive and motivated this winter while also preventing the risk of fire, our experts have outlined some of the key checks you need to make.

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Portable heaters

A recent survey found that over the past five years, 819 fires were caused by portable heaters – an essential piece of equipment for many of us! Although portable heaters help keep employees toasty-warm, they can also start fires if they’re faulty or are too close to flammable materials.

For your portable heaters to work fault-free, you need to make sure they’re routinely PAT tested to prove they’re safe to use. In addition, you or your ‘responsible person’ will need to regularly inspect them for any damage or wear and tear.

While your visual inspection is being carried out, it’s important to remember that furnishings, paper and other dry or combustible substances are the main sources of ignition and will need to be moved away from your portable heaters immediately.

More hot drinks

We’re all guilty of having a few more hot drinks to keep warm in the winter, and you’ll probably find your business’ coffee machine or kettle is used non-stop. This means you need to keep an eye on the condition of your kitchen appliances.

As an employer, you don’t want to be worrying about whether your kitchen appliances are safe to use or if they’ll cause any harm to your employees or damage to your business – but failing to do so could be extremely costly.

From 2019-2020, it was reported that 15,702 fires were started in the kitchen, and a large portion of these fires were caused by faulty equipment.

So, to help make sure your appliances stay in good working condition, you should check your electrical sockets at the end of each working day. If you need help on what else to look out for, or if you want to provide your responsible person with some essential check-points, just download our free electrical appliance safety check poster.

Electric blankets

If your business is occupied by guests or residents, you might provide them with electric blankets during the winter, but have you checked they’re safe to use and in good condition? There are a few dos and don’ts that we recommend you follow to safely use electric blankets at work:

  • Make sure electric blankets are flat, rolled up loosely or folded when they’re stored away to prevent any damage to the internal wires
  • Never buy second-hand blankets
  • If you notice an electric blanket is wet, make sure it’s not used until it’s fully air-dried. Never turn it on to dry!
  • Check regularly for wear and tear
  • Replace your electric blankets at least every 10 years

Extension leads

Always remember that you must never overload an extension lead by plugging in multiple appliances that together, could exceed the maximum current rating stated for that specific extension lead. This could cause the wall socket to overheat and possibly cause a fire in your premises.

We understand that if you’re a large business with many employees, you’ll be tempted to connect extension leads with each other as a ‘quick win’ so everyone can use more electrical appliances. This is known as ‘Daisy-Chaining’ and should be avoided at all costs because it can cause a fire to break out and spread along each extension lead, as well as across your premises! Instead, you should only use one extension lead per socket.

We also recommend using a multi-way bar extension lead instead of a block adaptor to avoid any strain and pressure on the wall socket. By using a multi-bar extension lead, you’re also reducing the risk of your socket from overheating and causing a fire.

If you know your business relies heavily on electrical appliances, especially during the colder months, you should consider having additional sockets installed instead of depending on a number of extension leads.

Smoking facilities

We understand that when the weather is harsh, your employees might be hesitant to use the designated smoking area when they need to – especially if it’s located outside. If this is the case, it’s important to remind your employees of your strict smoking policy, so they’re aware of the risks that come with smoking too close to the premises.

If you decide to invest more in your smoking area to make it more comfortable for employees, remember to:

  • Make sure the shelter is created from non-combustible materials
  • Conduct regular Fire Risk Assessments on the area
  • Provide metal ashtrays
  • Ensure nobody uses the ashtrays to put litter in
  • Make sure the smoking area is away from your fire exits
  • If you have a patio heater in your smoking area, make sure it’s regularly PAT tested, away from any dry waste like paper or cardboard, and it’s not moved while it’s turned on.

Fireplaces

Fireplaces are not only an attractive centrepiece for hotels, B&Bs, bars, restaurants and pubs, but they’re also very popular during cold weather. It goes without saying that without the right fire safety measures in place, your gorgeous centrepiece could cause harm to guests, customers, and visitors.

To avoid people scolding themselves, we recommend putting up a fire guard to prevent them from getting too close to the naked flames. This not only gives you peace of mind that everyone on your premises is safe, but that they can also enjoy the warm fire at the same time. Along with putting up an effective fire guard, you should:

  1. Prevent the build-up of ash or soot in your fireplace that could impede the flow of smoke
  2. Ensure your chimneys are swept regularly. It’s recommended that a chimney is swept annually if solid fuel is used and twice a year if you’re burning wood in your premises.

Increase in carbon monoxide

When winter temperatures drop and heating appliances are switched on for longer than usual, the risk of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning increases. CO is found in fumes produced by fireplaces, ovens, lanterns, kerosene heaters, burning wood and charcoal and is referred to as the ‘silent killer’ because it’s impossible to see, and can be deadly if it’s inhaled.

To prevent anyone in your business from suffering with CO poisoning, you should have a carbon monoxide detector fitted in proximity with any solid fuel heating appliances.

A carbon monoxide detector is a crucial safety device that alerts people of a CO leak and helps them escape a potentially life-threatening situation.

Power cuts

Treacherous weather is renowned for causing power cuts, so it’s important you’re equipped if the lights do go out in your business. It can be tempting to reach for candles but, for businesses, these pose a huge fire risk.

In fact, research carried out by Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service found that candle fires result in more than 300 casualties each year nationally, and more than 40% of all fires started by candles resulted in a death or injury. With this in mind, you need to make sure you’ve got a safe alternative to hand. Along with your legally required Emergency Lighting, we recommend keeping battery-powered torches dotted around the business for employees to use to move around safely.

Slippery surfaces

The cold weather can be a catalyst for increased health and safety risks, such as slips and falls. When it comes to evacuating the premises quickly, you want to make sure your employees can do so safely.

During your Fire Risk Assessment, your qualified assessor will check your fire safety measures, but this shouldn’t make you complacent. In the winter, you’ll need to pay special attention to your escape routes and assembly points to make sure they’re gritted daily to avoid slips, trips and falls.

How Citation Fire & Electrical can help

As a BAFE-registered fire safety compliance provider, we know how overwhelming your fire and electrical safety responsibilities can sometimes feel – which is why we’d like to offer our support.

Along with providing you with specialist guidance when you need it, our multi-skilled engineers can visit your business to complete your fire and electrical safety measures for you, so you know your business is in safe hands.

For more information about how we can support you with your business’ fire and electrical safety measures this winter, just fill out your details in the form above. Or, if you’d like to speak to one of our professionals first-hand, get in touch with our service team by calling 0800 055 6559.

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