Organization: BRE
Publication Date: 1 January 2010
Page Count: 108


In the UK approximately 2.9 million people are employed in the retail trade which, with a turnover in 2009 of £285 billion, represents one of the UK's largest industries.

Provisional statistics* for the period April 2009 to March 2010 show that in the UK there were over 3000 fires in retail distribution premises, resulting in over 450 injuries and 7 deaths. The most common cause of fire in shops and retail premises is arson. Arson, the deliberate setting of fire, generally involves both breach of security and fire. Each year thousands of small businesses, including retail premises, are the subject of arson attacks. The Arson Prevention Bureau (www.arsonpreventionbureau.org.uk), in its guidance for small businesses, reported that in 2003 there were over 3100 arson attacks on shops, cafes and small businesses, and that up to 80% of businesses are seriously affected following a major fire, with many being forced to close.

As for security, figures from the British Retail Consortium for the year to April 2009 show that over a third of a million shoplifting offences were recorded and retail crime cost UK retailers over £1 billion.

Fire and breaches of security threaten the lives and well-being of your customers and staff, and your ability to continue in business. Customers expect retail premises to be welcoming, pleasant places to be in. They, and people who work in them, do not expect to be put in danger. Each person has placed his or her unspoken trust in those responsible for the premises. As the owner, manager or employee you have a duty of care to your staff and to all those who use your retail premises. If you have a fire, you could be personally liable for any injuries to employees, customers, tenants or contractors. You have a responsibility to minimise the risk of a fire occurring and to protect the lives of those on your premises.

There are many potential causes of fire and your premises should contain features and systems that, in the event of a fire, limit the spread of smoke (the primary cause of death) and flames, and critically protect the routes leading to the fire exits. Similarly, your premises may have several security weak points, but these can be strengthened, and intruders can be deterred by the presence of security features and systems.

Unfortunately, human error all too often leads to fires and breaches of security, rather than failings in equipment or services. Fire and security precautions are therefore an essential requirement for your business. Training in the two 'disciplines' of fire safety and security is an integral part of achieving a sufficient level of protection. The awareness and tasks involved can be made part of staff's day-to-day activities, so that they become second nature.

This guide provides practical information that will help you to generate a natural culture of fire safety and security awareness within the staff responsible for managing your retail premises, to protect your customers, employees, their property and your assets. It identifies the important issues to enable you to foster a culture in which good fire safety and security practice become as familiar and normal to you and your staff as stock control, punctuality in opening, a friendly and helpful manner, cleanliness and efficiency.