Case study

Fire safety and risk assessment

Introducing a fire safety policy - Zooby's

Nicola Newman is the managing director of Zooby's, a Fairtrade coffee bar and sandwich deli, based in Sheffield. The café premises are located in the 'Winter Garden' - a covered public garden in the middle of the city. Nicola explains how she put her fire policy in place and why it is important to the business.

What I did

Conduct a risk assessment

"Zooby's moved into its current premises when the business opened in December 2002. I have a joint fire policy with the building I'm based in, which is council-owned. They had a fire policy which I amended to make sure it looked at the particular risks faced by my particular business activities.

"I carried out a risk assessment and realised I needed to ensure all staff were careful with the equipment we use and that all air vents on the equipment are always kept clear. We have a microwave that we use occasionally to heat soup, and a coffee machine. I get these checked every year to ensure they are still in good working order and not a fire risk."

Put my policy into the company handbook

"Whenever a new member of staff starts, I go through any important fire safety information with them verbally, because I think it is more likely to be remembered than if I hand them a manual to wade through. I do still give each of them a copy of the company handbook though, in which the fire policy runs to about four pages. The policy covers how to clean the machines safely, such as what chemicals can be used, and what employees should wear while doing it."

Ensure employees and customers are safe

"The handbook tells staff where to congregate in the event of a fire alarm being activated. I have also given them instructions for making sure any customers they are serving at the time get out safely. One of the good things about being in a shared building is that there are appointed 'fire ambassadors' who would do a sweep of the building in the event of a fire to ensure everyone is out. They also test the fire alarms every week.

"Another piece of equipment I am responsible for are the fire extinguishers that I installed following my first risk assessment. Thankfully, I have never had to use them, but it is important to be prepared."

What I'd do differently

Make regular updates

"Ideally we would carry out a fire risk assessment and update our policy every year, but as a small business some things do get pushed aside and I don't do it as often as I would like."