Many workplaces are damaged by fire every year, so it’s essential that everyone in the team knows how to reduce risks and respond

Being aware of fire hazards and the procedures to follow in case of an incident means there are actionable steps you can take to minimise risks.

Smoking

The UK ban on smoking in enclosed public places means that no one is permitted to smoke within pharmacies. However, it is also advisable not to smoke nearby. Discarded cigarette butts that are not properly extinguished can easily start fires and while the area around the pharmacy’s back door might seem an ideal place to take a cigarette break, there are often collections of waste cardboard, as well as many other potential fire risks, in these areas.

Flammable substances

Your pharmacy will probably stock certain flammable substances, such as surgical spirit or industrial methylated spirit, which must be kept in a locked cupboard.

Appliances

The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 require all electrical appliances to be tested at least every two years. However, appliances should be checked for broken plugs or exposed cords, which can cause electrical fires, more regularly. Switching off electrical appliances when they are not in use reduces the risk of them overheating and causing fires. Extension cords should not be overloaded if plugging in multiple devices. Heating appliances should be kept at least one metre from combustible materials, with working fire extinguishers being situated nearby. It’s also worth nominating a member of staff to check that all heating equipment has been turned off at the end of each day.

Fire exits and procedures

If there is a fire in the pharmacy or an adjoining building, it is critical that everybody is able to evacuate quickly. Therefore, fire doors must be kept unobstructed at all times. All staff members should be aware of the pharmacy’s official fire safety precautions and procedures, such as escape routes. A staff member should also be nominated to call the fire brigade.

The law on fire

The Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 requires companies to ensure precautions are in place to prevent and manage fires. These include fire alarms, which should be tested regularly; biannual fire drills; fire extinguishers on the premises, which must be serviced annually, and the installation of smoke detectors. For more information on general fire precautions, contact your local fire brigade or your pharmacy’s nominated fire officer, if applicable.

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