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Many businesses including pubs, restaurants and hotels have invested heavily in outdoor seating and entertainment areas. Use of outdoor areas can introduce risks that may not have previously been experienced, so we’ve put together some of the key considerations and risk management actions that can be taken.

In all areas where new risks are introduced, even outdoors, ensure that the relevant Risk Assessments are undertaken. These should be fully reviewed, updated as appropriate and the findings shared with your workforce, and where applicable, any contractors. 

Additional guidance on risk assessments can be found at:

A few things to consider when undertaking fire risk assessments:
  • Carefully consider where external heating, cooking, lighting or any electric cables are positioned.
  • All sources of ignition should be kept away from combustible items which may include trees, shrubs, timber decking, furniture or awnings / canopies.
  • Heating and cooking appliances should be on a stable flat surface and away from areas where they are likely to be knocked over.
  • Electric wiring should be suitably protected and installed away from heavy traffic areas. Do not place heaters or cooking appliances close to any building or structure and especially near any fire exit routes.
In the event of a fire always call the Fire & Rescue Service and do not attempt to fight a fire involving a gas cylinder. If safe to do so, isolate the fuel source. Maintained fire extinguishers, suitable for the type of fires anticipated, should be installed and only used for first aid firefighting by those trained to do so.

Any cooking or heating appliance must be suitable and specifically manufactured for use outdoors. They should always be used by trained employees and supervised whilst in use. All appliances should be used and maintained in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions.

Many different types of fuels can be involved, for example gas cylinders, wood, charcoal and their storage arrangements need to be fully assessed. All bulk storage of fuel should be kept as far away from ignition sources as possible. Only keep the minimum amount of fuel.

Any electrical installation must be designed for its intended purpose and the environment in which it is located, including outdoor spaces. For this reason, a competent electrical contractor must always be employed for electrical installation and maintenance work.  In addition, extension leads and adaptors should be avoided where possible.
  • Any lighting must be suitable for outdoor use and used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • No combustible items should be kept next to or near lighting or electrical wiring.
  • Ensure that there are no trailing leads which can be tripped over or vehicles can damage.
  • Electrical hazards should be specifically considered as part of the risk assessment process, recognising the potential implications for safety and fire for example.

Additional information and guidance can be found:

If smoking is allowed outside, it is important that the area smoking is allowed is suitable. It should always be away from any highly flammables or gas cylinders, away from combustible structures and waste storage areas. If you decide to provide a smoking shelter it must be safe and suitable for the purpose, comply with the relevant legislation, and it mustn’t increase the fire hazard on the premises.

Suitable and sufficient ashtrays, ash-cans or cigarette butt-bins should be provided. These need to be emptied each day into a suitable metal lidded bin or container, separate from other waste, wetted down or otherwise safely extinguished.

Condition and maintenance of outdoor areas and surfaces need to be assessed, monitored and managed in order to avoid slips, trips and falls. Any debris, spillages including broken glass must be removed and disposed of appropriately. Also think about the potential impact of adverse weather, even in the summer months.

Planning in advance is key and should include design and suitability, safe and competent erection, dismantling, maintenance and inspection. Suitable and regularly reviewed risk assessments must be completed by a competent contractor and cover all aspects, such as fire safety, security and health & safety.

Additional information and guidance can be found:

Find information on regulations that you and your business may need to comply with.
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Frequently asked questions
Find answers to some common queries about managing risks to people, property and business continuity.