A health and safety body is urging pub, club and restaurant owners in the West Midlands to tighten up on fire safety, to make sure staff and customers are properly protected against potential tragedy.
The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health’s (IOSH) Fire Risk Management Group gathered yesterday, at the HMV Institute, in Birmingham, to discuss how in some licensed premises there are accidents ‘waiting to happen’.
During the event, IOSH also urged pub, bar, club, restaurant and hotel businesses to ask for advice on how to protect their staff, customers and premises against the risk of fire.
Paul Graham, IOSH Fire Risk Management Group chair, said: “We know that many businesses feel that fire safety is a daunting task, but we’re finding there are accidents just waiting to happen in many licensed premises.
“Any business needs a proper fire risk assessment, which would particularly discourage using flammable materials and pyrotechnics. What makes a good fire strategy even more essential for licensed businesses is the crowds they often need to manage – the most important thing is to be able to get people out quickly and safely. The human, financial and reputational costs of dealing with the ramifications of a serious fire far outweigh the cost of robust fire safety management.”
IOSH also called for proper training and supervision for people with responsibility for fire safety and urged businesses, where necessary, to seek advice from properly qualified professionals, such as its Fire Risk Management Group and the Fire and Rescue Service.
West Midlands Fire Service fire safety inspector Graham Homer spoke at the event and said: “The consequences of fire can be devastating and as well as the overriding risk to life, businesses also face the prospect of losing their livelihoods if their premises go up in flames.
“That is why officers from West Midlands Fire Service are keen to work with club and bar owners to ensure that they are aware of their responsibilities under the law. Not only that, how best to assess the risks from fire and put in place the precautions necessary in order to protect their staff, clientele and naturally their premises.”
During the event, fire safety experts were reminded of several fires in restaurants, pubs and clubs in and around Birmingham. This included its historic rock club, Edwards No. 8 in 2006, where all 500 inside the building escaped and only 10 were treated for minor injuries. More recently, in 2008, TGI Fridays caught ablaze on Hagley Road, while in Wolverhampton, Manhattan’s bar in Chicago Rock Cafe fell foul to the same fate in 2009.
Darren Read, fire, health and safety manager for Birmingham-based Mitchells and Butlers, gave advice on how the company had put its fire strategy into place. He said: “Having a pub, bar and restaurant business with several brands that operate all over Birmingham and the rest of the UK means you really have to have an incredibly effective fire safety strategy that works for everyone.
“Across our premises there were kitchens, laundry areas, alcohol and upholstery, as well as crowds of people, to factor into our fire strategy. So today I’ve been talking about how licensed businesses should be taking a good look at the risks that their business involves, from the chance of a fire starting, to the ability they have to prevent the spread of fire, and to get everyone out safely.”
For more information on IOSH’s Fire Risk Management Group, visit www.iosh.co.uk.