According to recent data from fire authorities, chillers are the leading cause of shop fires, accounting for 17.6% of incidents in independent food and news stores.

Kirsty Hampton, manager at Retail Mutual, and Simon Robinson, managing director at leading refrigeration company Pastorfigor, said poor chiller maintenance was to blame for most incidents.

In this exclusive interview, we ask them how retailers can prevent chiller fires from starting.

Fire safety tips for stores

Have plug sockets installed rather than running chillers on extension leads

“Whereas multiples put the power outlet where it’s needed, independents often make do and we see fires with extension leads into extension leads into high power equipment.” Said Hampton.

Clean the vents and compressor of chillers frequently, as well as the underneath

In chillers, dust build up accounts for a lot of chiller fires,” said the Retail Mutual manager. The Pastorfigor boss added that a vacuum cleaner can be used to clean hard to reach parts of the unit.

Do not store waste against the shop

With remote chillers, where the cabinet is on the shop floor but the work is being done out back or on a roof, overheating can be an issue and we see instances where rubbish is being stood against them,” said Robinson.

“Hampton added the issue was harder for many independents than for multiples due to having less storage space. “It’s sometimes a space issue. Is there a suitable safe location to store waste? Often stock rooms are piled up high and much of that is flammable matter,” she added.

Turn off mains and block letterboxes of vacant shops

Hampton advised: “Due to wider high street issues and the pandemic, a lot of claims are coming from fires spreading from adjacent vacant properties, which can be targeted in arson attacks. Where possible, we advise stores to tape up letter boxes, make sure the mains electricity is off and alarms are still working in vacant sites, even if it’s just a temporary closure.”

PAT test all devices annually

The Retail Mutual manager told retailers: “51% of our fire claims are down to electrical faults in appliances. A lot of the rest is down to faulty wiring and it can come down to maintenance. While multiples may not have someone per store in charge of it, there will be a job role dedicated to PAT testing, scheduling maintenance and checking the equipment.”

Carry out a risk assessment

Not only are these mandatory for many Covid and non-Covid insurance claims, they are also a major health and safety requirement for any store, even if their staff are just family members. Hampton said the Retail Mutual provides a free risk assessment document to download online which stores can use to check their compliance.

Read more news and advice on shop chillers