Dangerous substances

Fire risk prevention measures

This section provides further information on evaluating the risk of fire and it`s prevention in your premises. You should spend time developing long-term workable and effective strategies to reduce hazards and the risk of a fire starting. At its simplest this means separating flammable materials from ignition sources.


Good housekeeping will lower the chances of a fire starting, so the accumulation of combustible materials in all premises should be monitored carefully. Good housekeeping is essential to reduce the chances of escape routes and fire doors becoming blocked or obstructed.

Keep waste materials in suitable containers before it is removed from the premises. If bins, particularly wheeled bins, are used outside, secure them in a compound to prevent them being moved to a position next to the building and set on fire. Never place skips against a building they should normally be a minimum of 6m away from any part of premises.

If you generate a considerable quantity of combustible waste material then you may need to develop a formal plan to manage this effectively. In higher risk areas you need to make sure arrangements are in place for close down, e.g. checking all appliances are turned off and combustible waste has been removed.


Many of the materials found on your premises will be combustible. If your premises have inadequate or poorly managed storage areas then the risk of fire is likely to be increased, the more combustible materials you store the greater the source of fuel for a fire. Poorly arranged storage could prevent equipment such as sprinklers working effectively.

Combustible materials are not just those generally regarded as highly combustible, such as polystyrene, but all materials that will readily catch fire, however, by carefully considering the type of material, the quantities kept and the storage arrangements, the risks can be significantly reduced. In offices the retention of large quantities of paper records, especially if not filed away in proprietary cabinets, can increase the fire hazard. Such readily available flammable material makes the potential effect of arson more serious.

To reduce the risk, store excess materials and stock in a dedicated storage area, storeroom or cupboard. Do not store excess stock in areas where the public would normally have access. Do not pile combustible materials against electrical heaters or equipment, even if turned off for the summer, and do not allow smoking in areas where combustible materials are stored.

Dangerous substances: Display, storage and use

Specific precautions are required when handling and storing dangerous substances to minimise the possibility of an incident. Your supplier should be able to provide you with detailed advice on safe storage and handling, however, the following principles will help you reduce the risk from fire:
Substitute highly flammable substances and materials with less flammable ones.

Correctly store dangerous substances, e.g in a fire resistant enclosure. All flammable liquids and gases should be locked away, especially when the premises are un-occupied, to reduce the chance of them being used in an arson attack.
Reduce the quantity of dangerous substances to the smallest reasonable amount necessary for running the business or organisation.

Ensure that you and your employees are aware of the fire risk the dangerous substances present and the precautions necessary to avoid danger.

Additional general fire precautions may be needed to take account of the additional risks that may be posed by the storage and use of these substances. Certain substances are by their nature, highly flammable, oxidising or potentially explosive. These substances are controlled by other legislation in addition to fire safety law, in particular the dangerous substances and explosives atmospheres regulations 2002.

Flammable liquids

Highly flammable liquids present a particularly high fire risk, for example, a leak from a container of flammable solvents, such as methylated spirit, will produce large quantities of heavier than air flammable vapours. These can travel long distances, increasing the likelihood of them reaching a source of ignition well away from the original leak, such as a basement containing heavy plant and/or electrical equipment on automatic timers.

The risk is reduced by ensuring the storage and use of highly flammable liquids is carefully managed, that materials contaminated with solvent are properly disposed of and when not in use, they are safely stored. Up to 50 litres may be stored in a fire resistant cabinet or bin that will contain any leaks.

In retail premises the quantity of flammable liquids on display should be kept to the minimum to meet business needs. There should be no potential ignition sources in areas where flammable liquids are used or stored and flammable concentrations may be present. Any electrical equipment used in these areas, including fire alarm and emergency lighting systems, needs to be suitable for use in flammable atmospheres. In such situations it is recommended you seek advice from a competent person.