A recent incident in a Yorkshire public house has acted as a sober reminder for owners of all licensed premises to take the matter of fire safety very seriously. A fire and subsequent explosion saw over two hundred people evacuated from the pub.
During an investigation by local fire authorities afterwards, a number of fire safety regulations were found to have been breached. Directors of the company that owns the pub received heavy fines and suspended prison sentences.
Fortunately, thanks to the quick work of the local fire authority, nobody was seriously hurt during the emergency. However, the whole incident simply serves to highlight the fact that the issue of fire safety is rarely covered by licences these days. In many cases, fire safety in licensed premises is left in the hands of the individual manager in question.
Risk Assessments and Staff Training
As with any other business, a fire risk assessment must be carried out within the premises. This must be regularly updated, with detailed records kept on file. Keeping fire risk assessments up to date and relevant is particularly important in licensed premises, as they are more likely to undergo refits and cosmetic changes than other businesses.
A pub may also start to serve food, requiring the building of a suitable kitchen. Each time such a change occurs, it should be assessed accordingly. Fire safety equipment such as alarms, smoke detectors, extinguishers and fire curtains also must be checked frequently and serviced periodically.
Although all staff should be made aware of fire safety procedures within their place of work, the licensee should appoint at least one (or more, depending on the size of the premises) competent person to act as a fire warden. This person can then assist the licensee in carrying out fire risk assessments, monitoring daily activities and, if required, taking preventative action.
While safety equipment such as fire curtains and sprinklers can help to save lives, an outbreak of fire within licensed premises also requires staff to be alert, quick-thinking and calm in their approach to dealing with people who are simply out to enjoy themselves.
The negative publicity which may arise when a pub or restaurant is found to have breached basic fire safety regulations could be enough to see that particular business close down for good. That all-important bond of trust between business and customer could be lost forever.