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Fire Safety Facts and Statistics UK

In this article, we explore the pressing issue of fire safety in the United Kingdom, where around 22,000 workplace fires occur annually. We examine the latest government statistics, common causes of fires, and the impact of safety measures and regulations. This analysis aims to understand better and mitigate the risks associated with fires in both domestic and workplace environments.

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Fire safety is one of the cornerstones of health and safety – fires are among the most devastating accidents that can happen in the home or the workplace, both in terms of property damage and injuries or fatalities. The number of fires per year will never be zero, but we can all do our bit to bring them down to a minimum and minimise their severity. Changes to our behaviour, ensuring that we have the appropriate training and equipment to deal with smaller fires and knowing what to do in the event of a larger fire can all help to reduce the impact of any fire that does break out. 

Here are the important fire-related statistics for the United Kingdom. 

Fire-related emergencies in the UK 

For the year 2021, a UK Government Report said: 

  • Fire and Rescue Services attended 555,358 incidents, a 5% increase on 2020 
  • Of those incidents, 147,295 were fires – a 4% decrease on 2020 
  • There were 280 fire-related fatalities, compared with 220 in 2020 
  • Of all incidents attended, 27% were fires, 40% were fire false alarms, and 33% were non-fire incidents 

The number of attended incidents over the last decade has remained fairly steady:

The majority of fatalities due to fires are in the home. The figures over the last decade are broken down into the three main categories:

  1. Primary fires – the fire occurs in a non-derelict building, a vehicle or outdoor structure, and/or involves a fatality, casualty or rescue, or was attended by more than four fire trucks 
  2. Secondary fires – smaller outdoor fires that do not affect people or property 
  3. Chimney fires – fires contained in the chimney of a non-industrial building 

In 2021, of the 147,295 fires that were attended: 

  • 62,301 were primary fires – 42% of the total 
  • 81,982 were secondary fires – 56% of the total 
  • 3,012 were chimney fires – 2% of the total 

 

Fires by type in the UK 2021

The average response time to a primary fire in 2021 was 8 minutes and 46 seconds.

Common Causes of Fire in the UK

In the year to June 2021, there were a total of 24,362 accidental primary fires in dwellings and other buildings. The most common cause of fires is through the misuse of equipment or appliances.

Causes of Fire in the UK

Compared with ten years ago, the number of accidental primary fires caused by misuse of equipment or appliances has fallen from 11,633 to 7,452

In 2020/21, the United Kingdom government spent £3.13 billion on fire protection services, the highest amount in over a decade. 

UK Expenditure on Fire Protection Services over the last decade are:

UK Fire Safety Expenditure

In 2020/21, the UK Government spent £3.13b on fire protection services, the highest amount since 2010/11.

Workplace Fire Statistics

How many fires happen in workplaces in the UK?

There are around 22,000 workplace fires every year in the United Kingdom or around 423 every week on average.

Fortunately, however, the number of workplace fires attended by emergency services is on the decline, from 26,670 at the turn of the century to 15,729 in 2010, to 10,052 in 2023.

Year Fires
2010/11 15,729
2011/12 15,077
2012/13 12,998
2013/14 12,695
2014/15 12,242
2015/16 12,506
2016/17 12,391
2017/18 12,105
2018/19 11,250
2019/20 11,023
2020/21 8,158
2021/22 9,770
2022/23 10,052

 Table showing the number of attended workplace fires in England from 2010 to 2023. 

Where do Workplce Fires Happen Most Often?

According to UK Government data, most non-domestic fires happen in private non-residential buildings including Industrial Premises (1,774), Food and Drink Premises (1,362) and Retail Premises (1,325).

In 2022/23, there were 522 fires in schools and other education premises. 18% of these were started deliberately, which is in line with the national average.

Between 2004 and 2008, the average cost per year of fires in schools was £58 million

In Hospitals and Medical Care Centres, 39% of the fires attended were started deliberately in 2022/23. 

Fire Extinguishers Statistics in the United Kingdom 

The fire extinguisher was first patented in 1723. Modern models are a far cry from that original design, but the intent is still the same – providing individuals with a quick and effective way of tackling a fire before it escalates beyond control. 

  • In the 12 months ending in March 2020, there were 68,757 primary fires attended by fire and rescue services in England. 
  • Only 4,828, or 7%, of those fires had someone used a fire extinguisher 
  • In 2003, a survey found that 80% of fires were successfully dealt with by way of portable fire extinguishers.
  • In 2012, the number had risen to 88% and to 93% in 2021
  • The 2003 report also found that fire extinguishers saved £5.1 million per year in fire services costs 
  • The savings to the UK economy, in general, were over £500 million per year 
  • In terms of casualties, estimates suggest that 1,629 injuries and 24 deaths are prevented each year through the effective use of fire extinguishers 

Fire regulations in the UK

In England and Wales, The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order, 2005 is the relevant legislation concerning fire safety in the workplace. The rules state that

Every business must conduct a fire risk assessment. For businesses with more than four employees, this assessment must be fully documented. 

Every business must provide appropriate fire-fighting equipment – typically in the form of a portable or hand-held fire extinguisher. Those extinguishers: 

  • Must be maintained and tested annually 
  • Must be certified to industry standards 
  • Must be the right type for the site and business 
  • Must be in good working order 

Every business must have appropriate fire safety signage. At a minimum, this should include a fire action notice and an extinguisher identification sign. Other signs include fire exit signs, evacuation route signs, fire exit signs, fire alarm signs, and warning and prohibition signs. 

Fire alarms are required by law in all but the smallest of businesses (those where a fire will be immediately noticed, and shouting a warning will alert everyone within the premises). 

Fire alarms should: 

  • Be tested weekly 
  • Be serviced every six months 
  • Be automatic if there are areas where a fire might go unnoticed 
  • Be able to be heard by everyone throughout the premises 
  • Be able to be triggered from a point by every exit on every floor 

Emergency lighting is required if there are areas within the business where a power cut would leave areas too dark to see. This lighting should be tested monthly and serviced annually. 

Safety training is required for everyone in the business – all employees should know where alarm points are and how to trigger the alert, how to evacuate and where to meet, and who the fire warden/marshal is.

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Richard O'Connor is a Director at First Mats. He has deep knowledge in areas like Manufacturing, Warehousing, Marine, and Health & Safety. Richard's insights have been featured in well-known publications such as Bloomberg Business, The Sun, and Reader's Digest. His blend of industry expertise and passion for sharing makes him a sought-after voice in his fields.

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