Fire safety for retailers.

If you run a shop or salon, here are the fire safety essentials you need to know. 


If you're responsible for a retail business like a shop or salon, there are specific areas of fire safety you need to really pay attention to. On this page, we'll take a closer look at the risks – and what you can do to reduce them. 

What causes fires in retail businesses?

  1. Lighting 9% 
  2. Electrical distribution 28%
  3. Smoking related 17%

Many retailers think that fire safety is their landlord's responsibility, but this isn't actually true. Though landlords need to keep buildings structurally safe, tenants have responsibilities too.  Everyone in business needs to complete a Fire Risk Assessment and make a emergency plan. You should also be mindful of other tenants and their safety.

Causes and risks

Risky business – what to watch out for 

The first step to improving your fire prevention strategy is identifying where things can go wrong. In 2016/17, our firefighters attended many fires in retail businesses across London, and we've noticed some common factors in the premises who run into problems. 

Common fire risks in retail premises

  1. Electrical equipment – we see many fires where lighting is placed too close to flammable materials.
  2. Electrical faults – these often happen when portable items aren't properly tested and maintained, or when the electrical system itself isn't in good condition.
  3. Irons and straightening irons – staff leaving them on unattended, or not being trained to use them properly.
  4. Smoking – smoking materials being disposed of carelessly, or smoking allowed in inappropriate areas.
  5. Arson – if you store stock or rubbish in a publically accessible place.
  6. Storage and rubbish – we often see blocked escaped routes, and piles of rubbish increasing the risk of potential arson or accidental fires from stray cigarettes. 

Emergency planning risks

As well as fire safety risks, there are some extra areas for concern – especially how people might escape in the event of a fire.

  1. Emergency planning and staff training – you may have a valid emergency plan, but does everyone know how to put it into action? What about customers with disabilities – have you considered their needs?
  2. Escape routes for neighbours – it's also important to consider how people in accommodation above any shops or salons premises might escape.

Help and advice

Firefighters tips for shops and salons

Though the retail business poses its own risks and challenges when it comes to preventing fire, with a little planning you can keep your customers, your people, and your premises fire safe. 

  • Make sure all electrical items are tested and maintained. 
  • Ensure your electrical system is regularly tested – at least once every year.
  • Educate your staff about the risks of overloading sockets, and make sure no-one is using counterfeit phone chargers
  • Complete your Fire Risk Assessment, and make an emergency plan that includes disabled people.
  • Make sure that fire safety training and fire drills to be carried out regularly.
  • Don't forget about customers with disabilities – not everyone will be able to respond to and escape from a fire in the same way. Train your people how to use hot appliances carefully and safely.
  • Have a smoking policy - and enforce it!
  • Install and maintain appropriate fire detection and suppression systems (sprinklers). 
  • Don't forget your neighbours – it's important to consider the risks to people who live above you.

Why should you care about fire safety? 

  1. You are risking lives if you don't.
  2. It's the law – you can face an unlimited fine and time in prison if you don't meet your legal obligations.
  3. It makes good business sense – the Association of British Insurers reported that around 60% of private businesses never recover from a fire. 

Signs that something’s amiss…

Gaps and holes

Typically between the stairs and the commercial premises.  A fire in the commercial premises can allow smoke and the products of combustion to enter the staircase and stop people exiting.

What to look out for: 

  • Damaged walls from the staircase to the commercial premises – look out for holes or large cracks.
  • Ill-fitting or damaged doors in the wall from the commercial premises to the staircase.

Holes in the floors exposing the premises beneath.

Residential entrance through the commercial premise

If a flat or bedsit can only be accessed through the commercial premises, fire can spread very quickly from one area to another and you may have no way to escape.

What to look out for: 

  • No separate entrance or way to leave quickly in an emergency.

Complete or update your Fire Risk Assessment

Understand your responsibilities and find help to undertake this vital assessment.

Fire Risk Assessments – your responsibilities

Useful downloads

After we leave – what happens after a fire?

Download PDF (177kb)

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