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Industry Advice: Managing Fire Safety in Retail


Retail is a fast-paced environment where store staff and managers deal with a constant stream of shoppers, while juggling the responsibilities of rosters, inventory and stocktake. However, retailers also have a duty of care to protect staff and customers at all times, making occupational health and safety (OH&S) including appropriate fire protection solutions and procedures, essential.

Fire hazards in retail environments vary and, with a high volume of merchandise, large stock quantities stored in small back rooms, flammable materials including corflute signage and plastic fixtures, there is an increased risk of fire spreading rapidly.

Fire can have a devastating impact on a business, affecting retail operations and sales targets long after the initial emergency subsides, particularly if shop fittings, equipment and stock are damaged. For retailers of all sizes, even a small fire can result in lengthy downtime while insurance claims are assessed and repairs take place.

Adapting fire safety solutions to suit different retail environments 

While leasing space within a shopping centre has many advantages, the risk of fire may also increase in larger complexes where electrical usage, cleaning chemicals, and retail food outlets that use ovens, hotplates and deep fryers can be a fire hazard.

In a shopping centre environment, it’s important for retailers to be aware that ordinarily, fire protection equipment within the store is their responsibility, while safety systems beyond the store are overseen by the centre’s facility management.

For standalone shopfronts and high street retailers, fire safety responsibilities may differ and a tailored fire emergency plan should be developed according to the specific environment, taking into consideration the site’s fire exits and available fire protection equipment which may require ongoing maintenance and servicing.

Fire safety tips for retail managers

Wormald recommends the following steps to help retailers reduce the risk of in-store injury or disruption to trade due to fire:

  1. Conduct a fire safety audit. It is good practice to review the store’s fire risks and fire emergency plan regularly, checking the functionality of exit lighting, emergency power supplies, as well as local evacuation plans, egress paths and sprinkler head clearance.
  2. Keep up to date with relevant regulation and legislation relating to fire safety requirements, and develop an appropriate fire prevention plan in accordance with Australian Standard AS3745:2010 “Planning for Emergencies in Facilities”. Remember, retail chains that occupy space in multiple centres require an understanding of fire safety regulations for each location in order to maintain mandatory compliance.
  3. Install adequate fire protection equipment to suit the local store environment. This may include basic fire extinguishers, fire hose reels, fire doors or more advanced fire detection and suppression systems.
  4. Regular service and maintenance are essential. Ensure fire protection systems and equipment are serviced and maintained to perform to the standard to which they were originally designed and installed. Australian Standard AS 1851:2012 “Routine service of fire protection systems and equipment” recommends regular inspections of fire protection systems. To helpstore managers keep on top of compliance requirements, Wormald is one of the few Australian fire protection companies to offer an online portal that provides instant visibility of fire protective equipment maintenance and servicing.
  5. Provide appropriate signage for hazards, fire protection equipment and emergency exits. This is vital for the safety of store staff as well as customers.
  6. Train local teams to respond appropriately in the event of a fire. This is an invaluable investment as staff who are confident in dealing with emergency situations can substantially reduce the impact of a crisis.

Wormald can help to identify potential hazards and install the most appropriate fire protection solution. For further information, contact our team on 133 166.