fire, safety, risk assessment, retail, convenience storesIn May we first received a phone call then a letter from Pav Sareen, a fire safety officer for West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service. He wanted to arrange an appointment to visit us so that he could undertake a fire safety audit to check our compliance with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 that came in to force in October 2006.

In his letter he stated that for the audit he would need a view of the following documents:

  • Fire risk assessment
  • Procedures clearly demonstrating effective fire safety management which should include company policy, an effective emergency management plan, defined responsibilities and the appointment of fire marshals where deemed appropriate.
  • Evidence of staff training and the carrying out of fire drills.
  • Records of testing and maintenance of fire-fighting equipment, all fire safety systems including fire alarms, emergency lighting (where applicable), etc.

Now, considering that the Fire Safety Order has a penalty scale up to 10% of a businesses annual turnover there are serious teeth that bite in the event of failure. The first thing I thought was that we did react to the Order when it came in to force in October 2006 when we wrote a fire risk assessment and emergency plan. We also do train new staff about how we minimise the risk of fire, but somehow we had let the record keeping slip during the intervening years. What to do was the next question?

Steve’s fire safety documents

The first action was to read the paperwork that we had from 2006; while we had the risk assessment and an emergency plan, there was little other evidence. As we have not had a fire in the 22 years we have run our shop I felt that it would make no sense to (excuse the pun), treat this as a fire fighting exercise. Looking at the Fire Safety officers audit list I worked methodically through it to correct our deficiencies. I searched the Internet for a model company policy and quickly found one that suited our needs. A little editing and it became a guide to build a fire safety file around.

First ever fire drill

I revisited the Fire Risk Assessment that I had written in 2006, refreshed it to reflect our current practices and placed the resulting pages in our Fire Safety ring binder. Next we looked at staff training, I wrote a script and ran through it with every member of our staff. I got each one to sign and date a copy of the training script as a record and placed this in the binder. Next, I organised a Fire Drill, the first we had in the period of our ownership (shocking). I took the opportunity of a short period when we had an empty shop to hold an evacuation drill to give our staff the experience. We have had to do real life evacuations on many occasions before when we have suffered power cuts.

Next I moved to records and evidence of testing and maintenance of our fire-fighting equipment. We have a contract with Chubb Fire who service our two extinguishers each year and provide a certificate for this. We also arrange to have an annual Portable Appliance Test undertaken each April and this year we also had a Periodic Inspection report compiled by our electrician. It all went into our binder.

In addition to this I created a Fire Safety Action Record sheet for the binder and we were ready for the Fire Officer’s visit.

See how the visit went in part two of Steve’s fire safety blog, next week.