The retail environment is constantly evolving to accommodate changing shopper behaviour and the need to drive sales. This can give rise to unique fire safety challenges, particularly in relation to the maintenance and servicing of fire safety systems and equipment.
Every time a wall is moved, store lay-outs are altered or stock levels increase, fire protection requirements may change. For example, moving displays at entryways may alter emergency exit paths, or storing excess stock in vacant change rooms can add fuel to a fire. These changes may require sprinklers to be moved or installation of additional sprinklers.
A fire in a retail environment can have devastating and costly consequences. Harm to staff and shoppers aside, a fire incident can permanently damage stock, bring operations to a standstill and have expensive legal ramifications. When an Asos factory in the UK went up in flames in June 2014, the retailer lost more than 20 per cent of stock stored on site and suspended orders for 48 hours. The blaze reportedly cost the retailer up to £30 million in lost sales.
It is vital that routine maintenance of fire protection systems and equipment is carried out on-time, regularly and thoroughly. This helps to ensure the systems will perform as intended in the event of a fire.
Developing a fire protection and maintenance program
A comprehensive fire protection and maintenance program in the retail environment usually comprises a preventative maintenance program (in accordance with Australian Standard AS1851-2012 Routine Service of Fire Protection Systems and Equipment) and procedures that promote a culture of fire safety.
To encourage awareness of daily obligations in relation to fire safety, retailers are urged to communicate the importance of fire safety to all store staff. Every time a change is made to store lay-out, fire safety procedures and equipment should be considered.
Implementing consistent and standardised processes for inspecting stores helps to promote a proactive approach to fire safety, while a focus on compliance fosters a safety-centric culture.
Take the stress out of fire safety compliance
Appointing a reputable fire protection provider can help to take the stress out of complying with the service and maintenance legislation and requirements for fire protection systems.
A trusted provider can offer guidance on a correct and appropriate mix of fire protection equipment as a store’s size, layout and stock volumes fluctuate. Equipment may include sprinklers, portable extinguishers and exit lighting.
Flexibility is key when selecting a fire protection provider to help minimise disruption to store operations and reduce downtime costs.
Wormald is a trusted fire protection provider for many national retailers across Australia. For more information, visit www.wormald.com.au or call 133 166.