10 Ways to Help Ensure your Holiday Let Guests are Safe from the Risk of Fire

Posted by Linda Maclaughlan on 19 May 2014

holiday cottageIn this guide I will introduce you to one of the main areas of health and safety for holiday let properties in Scotland – fire safety.

Much of this is covered by legislation that you must comply with.

I will also give you some common sense ideas to help ensure your property is safe. In my next guide I will discuss Gas and Electricity legislation.

If keeping your guests safe is not top of your priority list then it should be! So before you pick the fabric for the duvets or the pillows for the beds think safety first then everyone will be able to sleep well at night.

It is suggested that the risk of injury increases when people are in a property that they are unfamiliar with. You may know every nook, cranny and trip hazard in your house but that doesn’t mean that your guests will.

As a holiday let owner you are ultimately responsible for your guest’s safety and that your property complies with all safety legislation relating to the letting of self-catering accommodation.

Even if no specific legislation exists owners have a duty of care to guests and should adopt a common sense approach to eliminating potential safety hazards.

In conjunction with a sensible approach to risk assessment this should minimise the potential for any accidents or injury.

Fire Safety

fire safety

Source: The Scottish government

Although the number of fires in Scotland is at a 10 year low, potentially 46 people lost their lives and 1311 were injured due to fire. (2012-2013) In order to minimise this risk at your property and avoid adding to these statistics you must comply with the following.

Fire Risk Assessment

As the owner no one knows the property better than you and that is why it is your responsibility to carry out a fire risk assessment.

The fire risk assessment is essentially a common sense review of the property you are responsible for, identifying any potential fire hazards and allowing you to decide whether you have taken adequate precautions to minimise this risk or whether there is more you can do.

The fire risk assessment should be displayed in the property perhaps with the welcome and property information pack that you should provide. If you do not feel confident to carry out the fire risk assessment yourself, you can employ a Fire Safety Consultant to do this on your behalf.

Furniture and Furnishings

Enforced by the Trading Standards Department, The Furniture and Furnishings (Fire Safety) Regulations 1988/1989, 1993 and 2010 are designed to set levels of fire resistance for domestic upholstered furniture, furnishings and other products containing upholstery. All furniture (new and second hand) that is affected by the regulations in your property must comply.

Open fires and log burners

logburner

Log burners and open fires are a particular attraction of holiday cottages. The majority of guests will not have one of these at home and whilst this adds to the romance and cosiness of your cottage it also increases the risk of injury from fire or carbon monoxide poisoning.

If an open fire or log burner is provided for guests then the chimney must be swept at least annually. In addition to this a fire guard of appropriate size with mess that little fingers cannot poke through should be provided.

It is not only the fire that poses a risk, many people do not realise the danger of hot ashes. Ashes can and often are still hot enough the following day to cause a fire. The ashes should be disposed of in a metal bin kept outside the property.

Lowland Lettings properties have a minimum of one carbon monoxide alarm in each property. The alarm is relatively low cost (around £20) but could be a life saver.

Please do not make the mistake of installing alarm and forgetting about it. The alarm should be tested weekly and as most are battery operated the batteries should be regularly replaced.

You should ensure that any log burners or stoves are fitted by a qualified HETAS engineer.

Smoke alarms and heat detectors

smoke alarm

New building standard guidance published in October 2013 states that there should be

  1. One functioning smoke alarm in every room which is frequently used by the occupants for general daytime activities
  2. One functioning smoke alarm in every circulation space, such as hallways and landings
  3. One heat alarm in every kitchen
  4. All alarms should be interlinked.

Whilst this is not yet compulsory in holiday let accommodation this is the standard that Lowland Lettings are planning as part of our ongoing maintenance and refurbishment of all of our properties.

As with all aspects of fire safety it is the owner’s responsibility to protect the people using your premises from the risk of fire.

Please note that this also applies to staff members using the property i.e. cleaners etc. Current benchmarks should be used to reduce the risk of fire in your holiday let property.

When fire strikes there is clear evidence that early warning is a key factor to whether or not people escape unhurt. The vast majority of accidental house fires start in the kitchen.

That is why Lowland Lettings think that it is advisable to have a heat detector fitted in the kitchen. You must also have a wall mounted fire blanket readily accessible, situated between the cooker and an exit from the room.

Again please do not forget about the maintenance of the detectors, these should be tested on a weekly basis and a log kept. This can quite easily be adhered to as normally there is a cleaner in the property at least once a week.

The detectors should also be vacuumed at least every 6 months to remove any dust from the sensors.

Other common sense things to consider:

  1. All doors should be easy to open from the inside and should never be obstructed
  2. All tumble dryers should be regularly cleaned to ensure filter is lint free. Failure to do this can lead to the appliance overheating
  3. Fire retardant waste bins should be provided in the living room and the bedrooms
  4. A torch should be provided to aid evacuation in the event of a fire
  5. Emergency contact numbers and instructions on what to do in the event of a fire should be provided in the welcome and property information pack
  6. Provide Fire extinguishers. Guidance suggests a suitable fire extinguisher at least every 25 metres within the property

Key take aways

In order to reduce the risk of injury or death from fire in your holiday let property you need to do at least these 10 things:

  1. Carry out a Fire Risk Assessment
  2. Ensure all Furniture and Furnishings comply with regulations
  3. Adhere to regulations on log burners and open fires
  4. Fit and maintain adequate smoke and heat detectors
  5. All doors should be easy to open from the inside and should never be obstructed
  6. Fire extinguishers are also advisable. Guidance suggests a suitable fire extinguisher at least every 25 metres within the property
  7. All tumble dryers should be regularly cleaned to ensure filter is lint free. Failure to do this can lead to the appliance overheating
  8. Fire retardant waste bins should be provided in the living room and the bedrooms
  9. A torch should be provided to aid evacuation in the event of a fire
  10. Emergency contact numbers and instructions on what to do in the event of a fire should be provided in the welcome and property information pack.

It is generally acknowledged that relative to other ‘sleeping risk’ premises, the risk from fire to persons in well managed small B&B and self-catering premises is likely to be relatively low. Hopefully this guide will help you to understand your obligations and ensure that this is the case for your properties.

Now it’s your turn

Let us know what steps you take to ensure that your property is safe or any problems you have experienced.

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