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Common fire hazards in retail environments

Common fire hazards in retail environments

Fire hazards are a concern in any building in any environment – but they are especially concerning in any public building where there will be a constant flow of different people accessing the area.

This includes, obviously, all retail environments – shops have a constant throughput of members of the public and a high concentration of footfall, so fire safety measures need to be at their most stringent and thorough.

Shops and other retail premises should be constructed with the safest of materials and include recommended features such as fire safety doors for commercial buildings and be fully equipped with relevant fire safety equipment.

Aside from the building itself, here are some things to be aware of when considering fire safety for retail environments:

Common retail fire hazards:

Any potential source of ignition can be a cause a fire outbreak – oxygen tanks or fuel that is left exposed can be a major threat whilst any items that cause an obstruction by blocking corridors and doorways can hinder evacuation routes and threaten both lives and property.

Flammable goods

Many shops stock highly flammable good and materials – those retailers catering for industries that use fuel and other combustible materials are obvious candidates for fire outbreaks but many other shops and retail environments permanently store highly flammable merchandise – clothing stores, sports equipment retailers and off-licenses amongst others.

These retail environments need to take extra caution and be fully aware of potential fire outbreak and be appropriately equipped to deal with such a situation.

Rubbish and waste packaging

Waste packaging and a build-up of general rubbish inside or outside of a building is a combustible hazard, as well as being a potential obstruction for any necessary evacuation of the building with the double threat of also obstructing any emergency services called to any fire outbreak.

Electrical equipment

A very common source of fire outbreak – retailers should ensure that any portable electrical equipment situated on the premises is fully tested and complies with the required PAT certification.

Likewise, any hard-wiring of electrical installations or repairs needs to be regularly checked and fully compliant with at least minimum standards recommended.

Kitchen/Common Areas

Whilst other industrial environments like hospitality and catering carry more of a threat from kitchen fires, retail environments often have cooking facilities for staff in kitchens and staff rest rooms.
Carelessness in using open flames or cooking oils and materials present a serious fire hazard in these premises whilst poor ventilation in such environments exacerbate the dangers of a fire outbreak.

Safety Measures:

Fire risk assessment

All retail premises should have, by law, a fire risk assessment performed – this assessment will help identify any potential source of a fire outbreak thus enabling steps to remove or nullify these hazards, to be taken.

Responsible person

Every business should have a ‘designated person’ formally recognised as the person responsible for fire risk assessment and accompanying fire safety procedures and equipment. This person should always be ensuring aspects such as electrical appliances, plug sockets, kitchen equipment and any other potential fire hazards are regularly checked and monitored.


Security in retail environments is very important – not only from a stock theft aspect but also in regard to fire safety. Arson is still a major cause of fire outbreak in retail environments so attention should be paid to this security aspect.


Strict compliance with fire safety regulations and recommendations, allied with a common sense and responsible approach, is the best way to ensure safety and avoid a potentially life-threatening fire outbreak in any retail premises or environment.

Ensuring that fire safety equipment is maintained and the installation of fire safety materials are used in the very fabric of the building, such as recommended fire compliant commercial interior doors being fitted, will help to protect the safety of both staff and customers in these retail environments.

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