UK Economy Makes Business Owners Stop Spending on Fire Safety
Two thirds of East Sussex Businesses fail their fire safety inspection.
UK businesses have been hit hard by what is now rumoured to be a triple dip recession. For the past half-decade UK business owners have been grappling with rising costs, falling sales and reduced profits.
It’s hardly surprising that the fire safety industry is also under strain. What is surprising is the number of businesses that have skimped on fire safety spending so much that they do not meet legal requirements.
According to The Argus, two thirds of the East Sussex businesses inspected, during the final three months of 2012, failed their fire safety assessments. A total of 119 public and commercial sites were tested, and just 35 met all of the requirements. This left 84 businesses– two in every three – who were not up to scratch.
East Sussex is not an anomaly. The lack of spending can be seen in cities across the UK. Of all the business audits conducted the North Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service, between April 2011 and March 2012, 1,416 of them failed.
Why have businesses stopped spending their budget on fire safety supplies and services?
In Cumbria, around 50% of businesses inspected failed their fire safety risk assessments. Brian Gregory, expert from Cumbria-based Safety Management (UK), suggests two reasons why.
Firstly, Brian believes that the economic strain placed on businesses is causing them to prolong periods between assessments and inspections. This is with the intention of reducing inspection, maintenance and equipment replacement costs.
Unfortunately, this also means that potential problems are not detected.
Another main reason given is that too many businesses cut costs by conducting their own risk assessments, rather than hiring an industry expert. This creates a false sense of security where business owners feel they are safeguarding their business by simply having a fire extinguisher and detection device installed.
Unless the risk assessment is carried out by an industry professional, there’s no way of guaranteeing that you have all of the correct devices and that they are properly placed.
Fire simply isn’t seen as a significant risk
HSE government statistics show that part of the problem is that a fire isn’t considered to be a major risk by either employers or employees.
When asked to identify two or three main risks in the workplace, only 9% of employers and 8% of employees believed that fire hazards were a risk. When asked what their understanding of ‘health and safety’ was, just 4% of employers mentioned fire precautions. View the report here
When looking at these statistics, it’s hardly surprising that businesses are choosing to neglect fire safety in favour of other concerns.
It’s not a formality or unnecessary cost – it’s a legal requirement
Misguided attitudes towards fire safety are extraordinary.
What many people fail to remember is that guidelines laid out by The Fire Safety Order have been a legal requirement since 2006. Non-compliance with these regulations can incur a severe fine.
In March 2013, DM Care Limited was ordered to pay a total of £40,375 after being prosecuted for the non-compliance of fire safety regulations. This was actually the second time they were prosecuted in a 12 month period.
How many businesses could afford to pay the crippling penalties for fire-safety breaches?
A fire is a massive expense
Additionally, with the UK’s financial insecurity, for many businesses, a fire could be even more cataclysmic than ever before. The Chief Fire Officers’ Association estimated that 60% of private businesses never recover from a fire. At a time where businesses are under constant strain, the lost resources and time are too much for many businesses.
The loss of insurance pay outs
Of course, another massive oversight is the demands of insurance providers. If a fire does occur and a business hasn’t adhered to the all of the necessary requirements, it’s highly likely that they will no longer be entitled to an insurance payment.
Government statistics show that from 2011 to 2012 show that 50% of fires in non-domestic buildings occurred when there was no fire alarm present. In 12% of cases the fire alarm was present but did not operate. That’s potentially 62% of non-domestic fires where insurance claims could not be made.
Taking the proper precautions
Between the penalties incurred and the costs of a burnt down building, it’s much more cost-efficient to adhere to the Fire Safety Order. Read the existing legislation here
Photo credit: Account moved to http://flickr.com/codooaustin via photopin cc