FactoriesWe are often asked by owners of factories and warehouses about the numbers and types of fire extinguishers required and how often they need to be serviced.  Our advice is always to refer them to the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 which applies to any businesses premises which is occupied.

This order requires Fire Risk Assessments (FRA) to be carried out. For factories in particular, the government has issued a guide Guide 2 – Factories and warehouses.  These guidelines give advice on how to avoid fires and how to ensure people’s safety if a fire should occur.

The FRA guide, which applies in both England and Wales, is aimed at the person designated as the Responsible Person. This could be an employer, a manager, an occupier or owner of a factory.  It is designed to help that person to carry out a fire risk assessment and identify the necessary fire precautions which should be in place.  It is particularly helpful for environments which store and handle flammable materials and substances to minimise the likelihood of them causing a fire.

Fire Risks in Factories

Factories are generally deemed to be at high risk from fire. The level of risk will vary depending on the type of industry, the processes being carried out and the number of people working in the premises.

The main causes of fires in factories include:

  • Processes using flammable substances or machinery developing faults and causing a fire. More often than not a fire is caused by accident, usually due to lack of maintenance, operator error or unauthorised repairs.  Factory owners should put in place procedures to reduce the risk of fire along with corresponding training for all personnel.
  • Carelessness by smokers can be a cause of fire, particularly if a cigarette end is discarded and comes into contact with flammable materials. The flame is not always detected immediately as a lighted cigarette end might take a while to actually set fire to an item. We recommend using signs and actively communicating the dangers to employees.  A no smoking policy, with corresponding signs, should be adopted throughout the premises, with designated smoking areas for staff which are supervised closely and sited as far as possible away from any flammable materials or live production lines.
  • Electrical equipment can be a source of fire if it has been misused or not serviced regularly. All electrical equipment should be tested annually. And don’t forget the electrical equipment in a kitchen like kettles and toasters.  These can also be the cause of a fire if not maintained properly.
  • Store rooms and warehouses are a high fire risk as they store large quantities of flammable goods. Good housekeeping practices and ensuring that storerooms are kept as tidy as possible will help to reduce this risk. An added danger in a warehouse is that they are they are often large, undivided areas and if fire starts it will spread quickly unless separating walls are installed.
  • Sub-contractors and tradesmen who are contracted to work in a factory can put the premises at risk, especially if they use blow lamps, gas torches or angle grinders for example. Owners need to ensure a high degree of supervision with easily accessible fire-fighting equipment to hand. We also recommend giving the area these contractors have been working in a thorough inspection to make sure no hot spots or small fires have been missed.
  • Arson is the single most common cause of fire in business premises and 45% of all serious fires are a result of arson. Much of this is not targeted and the vast majority of arson attacks are down to opportunist vandalism. Apart from the need to comply with the law the Responsible Person has a duty to reduce this risk of arson by ensuring the factory building is protected at all times. For information about how to combat arson, check out this guide from the Fire Safety Advice Centre.


Training for all staff in the prevention and management of fire risks is essential.  During these training sessions as well as detailing and practicing fire procedures time should be spent highlighting simple fire precautions to stop fires happening. Not only is fire training in most premises required under law it also makes practical sense; half an hour spent can save lives and may prevent a fire in the first place.

Fire Risk management

Commissioning a fire safety risk management survey in addition to a Fire Risk Assessment will help to reduce any losses should a fire occur. For example, simple action like dividing stock into two fire-separated warehouses would mean if a fire should happen you will have 50% of your stock enabling you to carry on trading. Another example is to produce duplicate copies of your business records and storing them in a separate building away from your offices.  Generally, fire losses such as these are not considered in Fire Risk Assessments and can be the cause of companies being forced into bankruptcy after a fire.

Regular Servicing of Fire Equipment

Having fire extinguishers means you’re well prepared should the worst ever happen, and it’s equally important to ensure fire extinguisher servicing is carried out to ensure they are always in full working order should a fire occur.  Servicing will also help to prolong the shelf life of your extinguishers as well as resolving any potential issues before they become an actual problem.

The British Standard for fire extinguishers and other safety equipment recommends that every extinguisher receives a basic service annually, carried out by a service engineer.

At Hartson Fire, our experienced engineers are able to assist not only with your annual servicing requirements, but we can also help with risk assessments and training.

To find out more you can visit our website or call us today on the number below: