Top Causes of Fire in the Workplace

Fire isn’t necessarily the most common of accidents within the workplace, but if it happens, it can be deadly.  The devastation caused by flames ripping through your building can destroy years of work in only minutes.  The consequences of fires can be expensive for your company – the interruption to business with your premises potentially being uninhabitable, the cost of replacing stock and assets, not to mention the loss of valuable client records and information.

We have identified the most common causes of fire in the workplace, and what you can do to help prevent them.

Faulty electrics and electrical equipment

Loose wires, faulty connections, and overloaded plug sockets and extension leads can all result in electrical fires.  This type of fire is not just limited to office space; it can take hold in any work environment such as shops, warehouses, and workshops.  Because most businesses are reliant on even the smallest form of technology, there will always be the risk of unmaintained equipment becoming dangerous.

Business owners are legally required to take care of electrical equipment and regular PAT testing (portable appliance testing).  PAT testing is generally carried out between 12, 24 and 48 months depending on the type of equipment.  Because of the nature of electrical fires, these cannot be put out with water which makes them all the more hazardous.

It is imperative that you have the correct fire extinguishers installed by experts who will train you in their use.

Lack of training within your team

We all know that accidents happen through nobody’s fault. Equipment can burn out that is relatively new or in previously good working order.  Would you and your staff know how to deal with a fire at a moment’s notice? Or indeed, whether it could have been preventable in the first place.

If a fire should break out, it is essential that all staff are aware of the correct procedures.  As an employer it is your duty of care, and a legal requirement that your employees know the evacuation process.  Failure to comply could leave you with a lawsuit for negligence if the worst should happen.  You should appoint a fire safety monitor who will be responsible for taking any required remedial action (eg. the use of fire extinguishers) before the need for calling the emergency services.

Lack of Fire prevention equipment

The most basic of fire prevention equipment is the humble smoke detector.  It is, in most circumstances illegal to operate in a business premises without them. Maintenance and testing are essential to ensure they are in good working order at all times.

It is also a legal requirement in accordance with the Fire Safety Order to install the correct types of fire extinguisher suited to your business.  You may not be able to procure business insurance, or your current policy could be invalid without having a fire risk assessment carried out. Your assessor will advise you about the installation of fire extinguishers in appropriate areas of your building.  Your local Fire Safety company will be able to take care of this for you, one of the services which Swift Fire & Safety offer.

Incorrect storage of combustible materials

Failure to correctly store combustible and flammable materials is a huge contributor in the incidence of fires that could have been avoided.  For example, businesses that rely on power tools that could throw out sparks (welding or grinding equipment) should never have flammable materials close to the working areas.  The same can be said of chemicals which should never be near naked flames.

By ensuring that all materials are stored efficiently, the risk of fire is greatly reduced.  If your business holds large quantities of stock, such as paper products for example, it is essential that procedures are met, and that stock is stored immediately after delivery.

Negligence and/or human error

There are a number of scenarios whereby fire is caused by either negligence or human error.  Carelessly discarded items left close to heat sources, unattended food left to burn in the staff room or kitchen, cooling and fan vents on technical equipment blocked by office paraphernalia, using equipment incorrectly – the list is endless!  Every person in your employ should be responsible for their own health and safety and should be accountable for their actions, whether they are accidental or negligent.

Fire safety and Health and Safety courses are available and should be completed by your staff.  Your local fire safely officer will be able to help you find the appropriate course for your business which can often be completed online.

Arson

Sadly, arson is not as rare as we would like to believe.  Statistics suggest that over 45% of serious fires in the UK are caused by arson. Large industrial buildings and commercial businesses can be a target for vandals and other criminal activity.

Unfortunately, there is little that can be done to eliminate the risk of your business being targeted 100%, but there are measures that can be taken to make it less attractive to the criminal fraternity.  Identify where your building may be vulnerable and install a visible alarm system and CCTV.  These security systems are a considerable deterrent to would be criminals.

If you are concerned that these systems will not be enough of a deterrent, then an added layer of security could come in the form of an interior sprinkler system. Once activated, sprinklers greatly reduce the amount of damage caused if fire were to break out either by accident or criminal activity.

 

You can find out more about our Fire Extinguisher Installation and Maintenance services here.

How Training with Tavcom Created New Commercial Opportunities for Swift Fire & Safety

Here at Swift Fire & Safety, we have always relied on our reputation for quality service, resulting in a growing number of enquiries within the security related sector, and more notably intruder alarm systems.

Whilst this has presented an opportunity for us to accelerate our expansion, some of our team members didn’t possess the recognised qualifications for alarm systems that matched their fire credentials. Our Founder and Director, Daniel Youngs says: “It is a matter of pride and commitment to our customers, that we adhere to the highest standards for every service we provide. So, if we were to meet this customer demand, we needed to find the very best training provider for our team.”

On recommendation from several trusted advisors, Daniel approached Tavcom Training who are industry leaders in providing practical training courses to those ‘on the tools’, particularly in management, installation and design of security systems.

During an intensive five day course specialising in Practical Intruder Alarm Installation at Tavcom’s state of the art training centre, Daniel was awarded a BTEC Level 3 Certificate, giving him a skilled qualification in design, plan, installation, repair and maintenance of intruder alarm systems.

Daniel has more than 15 years’ experience and expertise within the fire sector and has undertaken a great deal of training.  He says: “I have participated in many courses but Tavcom sets the standard. It represents good value for money, ticked all of my boxes and filled the knowledge gaps I was missing.” He adds: “It has given us the confidence and credibility to respond positively to the requests regarding intruder alarms that we receive and already we have customers that are benefiting from our practical application of Tavcom’s teachings.”

Swift Fire & Safety are committed to providing a quality service and we credit our investment in training as one of the reasons for our excellent reputation. Daniel says of Tavcom: “It is our intention to take further advantage of all Tavcom has to offer, continuously improving our skills.” He concludes: “Training ensures we maintain the highest possible standards for our customers and at the same time opens doors to new opportunities to grow the business.”

 

You can find information about all of Swift Fire & Safety’s services here.

Photo credit: Tavcom Training

8 Reasons Why You Need To Install CCTV At Your Business Premises

With advances in technology in the last decade, there is no reason why all businesses shouldn’t have even the most basic security measures in place to protect the premises, its contents and its employees.  There are several different kinds of CCTV for many different budgets, but if you invest in a more modern system, the benefits will swallow the cost in no time!

The current COVID-19 situation means that many businesses are standing empty, or operating with skeleton staff, meaning that they are more exposed to theft or vandalism.  Until restrictions are lifted and businesses can begin operating as normal again, commercial premises across the country are far more vulnerable to criminals.

Protecting your business is paramount in such uncertain times, and security is key.  As government guidelines have told us to stay at home, remote security is a lifeline for business owners who are unable to attend their premises.  So why should you invest in a new CCTV system?  We identified 7 of the best reasons:

  1. Old analogue systems are outdated

You may be throwing good money after bad trying to maintain an older analogue system, due to the cost of upgrades and replacement parts.  The older the system, the more unreliable it will become meaning it could fail at a time when you most need it.

  1. It can record vast amounts of live footage

Imagine the cost involved in employing somebody to watch your security cameras all day every day!  IP CCTV records in real time, and its software will alert you if the alarm in your building is triggered by intruders.  This can save you time, money and hassle, as it gives you the ability to access footage at any given time, either as it is happening or retrospectively.  This footage is invaluable should any break in result in arrests and prosecution of the perpetrators in the future.  Of course, you also have the option to peruse footage just to check your building is safe and secure.

  1. The image quality is better

Modern CCTV image quality is far superior to analogue.  A clear crisp image is vital if you need to identify any criminals caught on camera.  Even if intruders are disguised, a sharper image could still help by identifying clothing brands or other small detail that an analogue system might not pick up.

  1. You can monitor remotely

The benefit of remote monitoring is that you can check on your cameras wherever you are, from your smart phone or other device, giving you the advantage to alert emergency services immediately should you need to.  If you travel with work, or lockdown rules are strengthened, then this can give you extra peace of mind if you’re not on hand to attend your premises when necessary.

  1. It’s easy to install

Once your cameras are insitu, you can download simple software to monitor them from any device, giving you peace of mind should your building be empty for any prolonged amount of time.  Extra cameras can be added in harder to see places or particularly vulnerable locations, either indoors or outdoors.  Viewing footage from multiple angles can prove valuable when trying to identify suspects!

  1. It’s cost effective

The cost of a new security system can seem like a lot of money to part with, but think of the benefits; CCTV can act as a deterrent to burglars which could save you the hassle of insurance claims and subsequent premium increases in the future.  A burglary doesn’t just impact on the loss of equipment and items, it’s also about the potential damage caused to your building, the interruption to your business should key equipment be stolen or damaged plus the emotional distress caused to you and your employees.  You may even find that your insurance premiums are lowered with the addition of an appropriate CCTV system.

  1. It’s reliable

Gone are the days when there would be one hard copy of footage, which could be rendered useless if it was damaged, or worse still, recorded over!  Today’s systems are durable as well as reliable and can be updated and adapted with ease, producing high resolution imaging, which can be accessed from anywhere at any time.

  1. It protects your staff

There could be times when your staff feel vulnerable at work, particularly if they’re there alone.  CCTV offers them comfort in knowing that they are always safe and monitored.  Likewise, your staff will conduct themselves professionally, knowing that their actions are being recorded!

Of course, there are Data Protection laws in force which forbid you from pointing cameras at the pavement, road or neighbouring properties.  Your Installation expert will advise you of the best position for your cameras without breaking the law!

 

If you would like more information on our CCTV systems and installation service, please click here.

Will the Coronavirus Affect the Crime Rate?

The world is experiencing one of the worst catastrophes imaginable. None of us are immune to the effect the Coronavirus is having and as the ripples spread far and wide and the infection rate rises, the strain on our public services is immense.  With clear instructions in place to help us to try and delay the spread of the disease, the impact on our social interaction with others seems devastating.  But those instructions are crucial if we are to suppress the infection spread, at least for the time being.

As of early March it was reported that the government had warned: ”Police forces will concentrate on responding to serious crimes and maintaining public order if they suffer large staff absences during the outbreak of coronavirus”.  Basically this means that if you are burgled (classified as a low level crime), then it will be less likely for police officers to attend your scene, as the workforce could be stretched even further to cope with the absence of officers who are either infected with Covid-19 or who are in self-isolation. Potentially this could be a green light for many offenders wishing to take advantage of more ‘relaxed’ measures.  However, the reality is that people’s normal patterns of behaviour have been well and truly disrupted which could signal a reduction in the crime rate as more and more people are staying at home.

Unfortunately, crime isn’t just confined to physical acts.  Online crime is a real and present danger. At the end of February, online giant Amazon pulled over a million online items whose sellers were capitalising on the fear factor.  Counterfeit face masks and bogus virus cures were listed at highly inflated prices.  With our shops’ shelves being almost stripped bare of such items, as well as hand sanitisers and anti-bacterial products, worried consumers are being duped into paying these exorbitant prices for substandard and sometimes non-existent products.

Former Attorney General Dominic Grieve told talkRADIO that he thought that the economic hit of coronavirus could raise crime. He stated: “The issue that worries me is how, at the end of this, do we pick society up and will there be the number of casualties who will be so badly affected economically that that may contribute to a rise in the crime rate?”

What is certain, is that we are living through a time where we need to be vigilant in all aspects of our lives.  With so many people having to work from home now, the likelihood of burglary is greatly reduced with properties being occupied around the clock.  But it doesn’t mean we should be any less careful with our home security measures. Opportunists are just that – they may still target the old and vulnerable.

Likewise, many commercial premises are either standing empty or running with a skeleton staff.  It’s an absolutely crucial time to ensure that your premises are protected during the most uncertain time in generations.

 

For more information on our security services, click here.

What Are The Best Deterrents To Burglars?

If you have been the victim of a break in or burglary, you may be curious to know why you had been targeted.  What was it about your property that attracted the burglar?  After all, most thieves are opportunistic, so it may have been a spur of the moment break in.  Shockingly, research has revealed that almost a third of us have no security measures in place, so the most probable answer is that your security was either non-existent or simply wasn’t tight enough. There are in all likelihood a whole host of extra measures that could have been taken to send thieves running in the other direction.

If you are lucky enough not to have been the victim of a theft crime, but are still looking for ways to make your property more secure, there are several ways of doing so.  And what better way to know what deters potential burglars than to get inside the mind of one?  The Co-op conducted a survey of 12 former criminals to find out what makes them select a particular property when they’re looking for targets, and what would deter them from breaking in.

One of the top considerations on their list of deterrents were smart homes.  Technology is evolving at quite a rate, and is becoming more and more affordable as the market grows.  Most home owners could have a basic smart device installed at very little cost.  When you consider the inevitable hike in your insurance premiums in the event of a break in and a subsequent insurance claim, the cost is easily absorbed!  The Co-op found that 89% of ex criminals surveyed said that they would be deterred from targeting a home with smart technology.

There are several other factors that would deter opportunist thieves when selecting their next mark.

Here are our top 5 tips:

  1. Smile, you’re on camera!

CCTV cameras are pivotal in the fight against crime.  We see them literally everywhere on our streets, and the police rely on them daily to identify crime and its perpetrators. Amazingly though, only 14% of UK residents have them installed in their homes.  Perhaps the biggest deterrent for thieves, burglars and other criminals, why do more of us not look to CCTV to protect our homes?  Comparatively it’s more costly than other forms of home security, but it does add a means of identifying criminals, and provides evidence against any that are apprehended later.

  1. Light up!

Security lighting is an effective measure when it comes to protecting your home, particularly if the street lighting around your property is poor.  Very few burglars work in broad daylight, so make the night time hours as bright as possible, as they don’t want to be seen!  Whether you decide on lights timed to come on during certain hours of the night, or motion activated ones, they are all a deterrent.  If you’re going out, leave some lights on inside, and a TV or radio – the more occupied your home looks the better.

  1. Shut up!

How many of us don’t lock ourselves in when we’re at home?  Some burglaries happen when the property is occupied with thieves having gained entry through an unlocked door.  People who are particularly vulnerable should be extra cautious, especially if they are living alone.  Get into the habit of locking your doors when you come in as well as when you go out.

When we go to bed many of us sleep with the windows open?  It’s good to have well ventilated rooms, but it’s easy to forget to secure them the next day when we’re in a rush to get out to work.  Open windows are an invitation to would-be burglars.

Whenever possible have a car parked on the drive, and better still, install lockable gates at the entrance of your driveway.

  1. Be an attention seeker!

Criminals who are debating whether to burgle your house or not will not want to attract any unwanted attention.  If you have dogs, your furry friends could be the deal breaker!  Most thieves will not enter a property where there are barking dogs.  If you don’t have any pets, you can get motion sensors that play a recording of barking dogs. Coupled with ‘beware of the dogs’ signs, it might be enough to prevent a break in.

Burglar alarms have a dual purpose; the sight of the box situated on the house is usually enough to discourage a burglar, but in the event they gain entry anyway, the noise of the alarm will soon attract the attention of neighbours and passers-by.  Some more sophisticated alarm systems can combine smoke detectors and CCTV, giving you an all-in-one security system.

  1. Don’t be a virtual attention seeker!

It’s the age of sharing.  With almost infinite social media platforms to choose from, it’s easy for us to share everything that’s going on in our lives.  But do we really need to let everyone know what we’ve had for dinner, or the latest item of clothing we’ve bought, or that we’re jetting off to sunnier climes?  Holiday details shared online is like advertising the fact that your home is empty.

What are Fire Extinguisher Ratings and Their Meanings?

Fire extinguishers come with different ratings dependent on the classification of fire they’re equipped for.  The rating of fire extinguishers is designed to help us understand the type and size of the fire in which the extinguisher should be used.

Classifications of fire vary and depend on the source of the outbreak or accelerant. They are:

  • Class A – ordinary combustibles such as wood, textiles and paper.
  • Class B – flammable liquid fires such as grease, oil, gasoline and solvents.
  • Class C – electrically energised fires such as computers and other electrical equipment.
  • Class D – flammable metal fires such as lithium and titanium.
  • Class K – kitchen fires caused in particular by fats and grease.

Class A and B extinguishers include a number with the rating; for class A the rating indicates how many gallons of water the extinguisher is equivalent to. For example 1A equals 1.25 gallons of water, therefore 5A would be equivalent to using 6.25 gallons of water to fight a fire.

A class B fire extinguisher takes into account the square footage of area a fire could consume as opposed to the water needed to put it out.  For example an extinguisher carrying the rating of 1B is capable of putting out a fire in a 1 square foot area. A 30B rating allows the user to extinguish a Class B fire in a 30 square foot area.

Knowing and understanding the rating behind fire extinguishers is vitally important in the event of a fire, although the most common extinguisher is the ABC.  This does have varying ratings dependent on its size, but can be used for A, B or C class fires, which would cover most eventualities within the home or office.

However, for larger premises you may need the help of an expert to determine exactly which kind of extinguishers you need.  Purchase advice, placement and maintenance of equipment is all part of the service that Swift Fire & Safety offer.

If you are need any advice on fire safety and extinguishers you can get in touch with us here.

How to Help Prevent a House Fire

The thought of fire breaking out in your home is a scary one.  It’s also statistically very unlikely to happen, but nevertheless it’s not impossible. But fear not, as there are plenty of steps you can take in order to minimise the risk of fire within your home.

 

  • Smoke detectors. You should test the batteries in your smoke alarms at least once a month.  Set yourself a reminder to do it, say, on the first of every month.  It takes seconds, and could potentially save your life.  Replace any dead batteries immediately.

 

  • Fire extinguishers. Having a well maintained extinguisher on hand in the event of a fire could be the difference between a small amount of smoke damage and the devastating loss of your home.  Your fire safety provider will advise you about the safest and most accessible places to store your extinguishers.

 

  • Heating maintenance. You should have your boiler serviced regularly, at least once a year.  By regular servicing, you’ll avoid too much build-up of dust and dirt within the appliance which could be a fire hazard.  If you use electric heaters make sure that they’re placed well away from anything that could catch fire.

 

  • Naked flames. Candles are the cause of a large percentage of house fires and most of these could be avoided if they weren’t left unattended.  If you have an open fire, always use a fire guard to avoid burning embers falling from the grate, or being ‘spat’ out.  Ensure you have your chimney swept regularly to avoid soot from building up – this could ignite and cause a chimney fire.

 

  • Close your doors. Fires will be unable to spread as quickly if the internal doors in your house are closed.  This could save your life, particularly at night time! More often than not, smoke will take victims before flames do, so every second counts.

 

  • Kitchen appliances. Most house fires start in the kitchen.  Hot pans can combust if they contain any kind of cooking fat.  Keep hobs clear of any debris, and never leave tea towels or cloths on them.  If you should have a pan fire, NEVER douse in water; a damp tea towel laid over the top will starve the fire of oxygen, and will be extinguished relatively quickly.  Ideally you should never leave your hob unattended whilst cooking.

 

  • Washing machines and tumble dryers. Clean the filters of your washing machine and tumble dryer regularly to avoid fluff and lint from building up.  Most fires that start in tumble dryers result from poor maintenance.

 

  • Electric cables. Deal with any frayed cables immediately as bare wires are not only dangerous to anyone who touches them, but are also a fire hazard.  Be sure to unplug any phone chargers that are not in use, and also any appliances that start to feel warm to the touch at the power source.

 

  • Storage. There are so many products we use throughout the house that are flammable, eg cleaning disinfectants, perfumes and sprays, and it’s vitally important to store them safely. A cupboard away from any heat sources and exposure to sunlight is ideal.

 

For any advice on fire prevention and protection, Swift Fire & Safety can help.  You can contact us by calling 01733 602955 or by clicking this link.

Preparing for a Fire Emergency at Work

Nobody expects a fire to break out at work, but these types of emergency can strike businesses at any time.  If the worst should happen while you’re on the premises, would you know the correct procedure to evacuate immediately?  It’s a duty of care to ensure that you (and other employees) are ready, just in case disaster strikes nearby.

There are some actionable tips that could help. Here are some to get you started.

Your action plan

Outlining your responsibilities during a fire or other evacuation emergency can be compiled in your ‘Emergency Action Plan’.  It should include escape routes which highlight primary and secondary emergency exits, the fire assembly point and also include accessible routes for those that may have disabilities.  Diagrams are very useful in this instance.

It should be decided whether any employees should use fire extinguishers if needed, and that if so, that they are fully trained in their use.

Emergency Training

Your team should all be familiar with your Emergency Action Plan, but you could also provide extra training for those with specific responsibilities should an emergency occur.

If you need any of your staff to be able to use a fire extinguisher, training can be given by your extinguisher supplier.  Maintenance of equipment is essential so that it is reliable should the need to use it arise.

Testing of all alarms should take place regularly. Conducting routine fire drills will also give your employees chance to practice their roles and responsibilities as if it were a real evacuation.  Your local fire safety provider will be able to give guidance and advice if you feel there could be improvements in the evacuation process.

Prevention

Now that your team know what to do in an emergency situation, there are steps you can take to make sure the chances of fire breaking out are reduced.  A common sense approach to general health and safety rules will help keep your workplace and its employees as safe as possible:

  • General Maintenance should be ongoing. Canteens in particular are ‘hotspots’ for flammable grease and grime build up, so appliances should be checked regularly to be sure they’re working adequately.
  • Dispose of rubbish daily so that it doesn’t build up into a hazard.
  • Clear all exits, stairways and corridors in case of emergency evacuation.
  • Open windows when cleaning products are being used, particularly near to heat sources.
  • Store paper products correctly, and never near to heat sources.
  • Make your premises is a smoke free zone. Discarded cigarette ends cause fires!
  • Ensure your premises are secure when there is nobody on site. Arson is the cause of over 40% of serious fires, so stepping up security is a good idea.