Fire Risk Assessment

The Fire Triangle

In How could a Fire Start? Ignition Sources & Control Measures we looked at the various ignition sources that might be found in a typical holiday cottage. Even if you take all reasonable steps to control ignition sources, a fire can unfortunately still happen so it is also important as part of a risk assessment to consider steps to limit that fire as much as possible.

For a fire to happen, three things need to be present: An Ignition Source, Fuel and Oxygen. This is commonly known as the fire triangle. We are now looking at the other two corners of the triangle, namely fuel and oxygen. Attention here will improve matters once a fire has actually broken out.

The Fire Triangle

Owners Storage Cupboards and Other Locked Areas

While the areas that guests have access to are generally tidy and well presented, locked cupboards, integral garages (to which guests have no access) and locked rooms tend to be a dumping ground for cleaning materials, spare linen, old furniture and other items. Over the years we have seen some nasty risks in these areas: bottles of white spirit, paint, methylated spirits and even cans of petrol. One risk assessment that we saw noted that the owners integral garage contained five gallons of outboard petrol. In another case, the owner was something of a hoarder and had filled the loft of the property (which was locked and not available to visitors) with pieces of secondhand wood. The risk assessor was very concerned because the central heating boiler was also in the loft (an ignition source) and he felt that if a fire did break out this wood would provide such a large quantity of fuel that the fire would be very serious.

As part of your risk assessment, every effort should be made to remove stored flammable liquids, containers of gas and other unnecessary fuels from the property. If they really must be at the property, then the safer option is to store them in a securely locked shed away from the house.

Butane gas in cupboard

Is there any Oxygen or Oxidising Agents on the premises?

In industrial premises, cylinders of Oxygen are quite common. In holiday cottages, they are unlikely to be found unless perhaps there for guests who have medical conditions. More likely to be present are Oxidising Agents in the form of bleaches and other cleaning materials. Oxygen will have a dramatic effect on a fire and greatly increase it. Therefore if you are aware that bottled Oxygen will be used at your property or have significant quantities of Oxidising Agents then you will need to implement measures to control this risk.

Oxidising Agents can be identified from the following warning label.

Oxidising Agent

As a General Rule

Unless a fuel, chemical or gas is necessary for your guests use, remove it from the property. Similarly, keep all quantities of stored rubbish, fuels and cleaning materials to a minimum.