Keep your farm safe from fire

Keep your farm safe from fire

This page provides advice and guidance about how to prevent fires and limit the damage caused on your farm.

Fire safety law & farms

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 applies to all farm buildings where people work. This includes packing sheds, milking parlours, barns, holiday lets and farm houses used for providing bed and breakfast.

To comply with the law, you must:

  • complete a fire safety risk assessment and carry out any needs that are identified
  • manage hazardous materials properly
  • ensure people are alerted to a fire and can escape to safety
  • make a farm fire plan for animal evacuation
  • make a farm fire plan for evacuating your animals 

Fire risk assessment

If you employ five or more people, you are lawfully required to carry out a fire safety assessment for your farm buildings and record the findings.

The law firmly places the responsibility for all fire safety matters with not only the employer/manager, but also the building owner where applicable, and the employees.

Advice on completing a fire safety risk assessment for your farm
You can also request further advice from the fire safety department within Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service:
What could happen if I do not obey the law on fire safety?
The consequences of not complying with fire safety requirements can be severe. Apart from the potential for loss of life, injury or damage to property, enforcement action may be taken.

The penalties are set out in legislation and will range from a fine to custodial sentence and may, in extreme circumstances, include both.

If you don’t obey the law, you could lose your business or be prosecuted and face a fine or prison sentence of up to two years.

Farm fire plans

A farm fire plan contains key information helpful to fire crews so they can take action as swiftly as possible in the event of an emergency incident, helping protect life and property on your farm.

What should a farm fire plan include?
  • farm contact details
  • vet contact details
  • fertiliser store information
  • locations/types of water sources
  • electricity supply
  • location(s) of any asbestos
  • fuel storage
  • types of/storage of cylinders
  • information on hazards/risks
What can I do now to help fire fighters in the event of a fire?
  • Make a farm fire plan.
  • Record details about chemicals and fertiliser stored and submit a copy of this with the farm fire plan. You can use this fertiliser/chemical record sheet to do this.
  • Display your property sign clearly at the farm entrance.
  • Find out where the nearest fire hydrant is and keep it clear so it can be located quickly.
  • Make sure other water supplies are readily available for use.
  • Ensure fire engines can reach all areas of your property.
  • Consider whether cattle grids on your land will support fire appliances.
  • Cut back trees to allow good access.
Related documents:
Where should I submit my completed plan?
Please submit completed plans to:

Electrical safety

Electrical problems are a common cause of fire on farms. Many of these could be avoided by taking simple steps to reduce the risk of fire on your farm. These include:

Battery charging
  • Exploding batteries can be catastrophic.
Solution:
  • Carry out battery charges in well-ventilated areas away from flames or sparks.
Electrical sockets & wiring
  • overloaded sockets overheating
  • extension reels inappropriately unwound/overheating
  • old portable electrical appliances being untested
  • wiring gnawed by vermin
  • extensions to existing systems overloading
Solutions:
  • Always check the rating of tools/appliances to ensure you are not overloading sockets or extension leads.
  • The Electrical Safety Council’s socket overload app is a useful reference tool.
  • Always ensure extension leads are fully unwound, or use shorter ones.
  • Ensure appliances/systems are periodically checked by qualified electricians.
  • Ensure wiring is rodent proof by fixing under beams, or in conduit.
Lighting & dust
  • Lights, including those with halogen bulbs, are very hot and located in places where cobwebs and dust can build up ignite easily.
  • lights/electrical items that are in contact with dust or other flammable materials, such as bales of hay/straw
Solutions:
  • Use bulkhead-type lighting and ensure fluorescent lights have covers on to protect from dust and clean regularly as part of the maintenance plan.
High voltage electricity lines
  • High voltage electricity lines – more than 1,000 volts and arranged horizontally – are not insulated.
Solutions:
  • Avoid using ladders, hoses or anything else conductive near them.

Flammable materials

Due to the nature of farming, there are usually a number of flammable materials stored.

The availability of these materials can contribute to rapid fire spread. Reduce the risk by taking some simple measures:

  • Don’t store flammable materials with livestock or vehicles.
  • Keep barns clear of other materials and property.
  • Store hay/straw etc. in a barn downwind of prevailing wind, if possible.
  • Remove hay/straw from fields as soon as possible after harvesting and store separate from other buildings, particularly those housing fuels, agrochemicals and machinery.
  • Hay/straw should be stored in stacks of reasonable size, spaced at least 10 metres apart.

Cylinders stored on farms

Cylinders are an extremely common factor at agricultural incidents. They can be extremely dangerous if a fire occurs.

Why is it important to store cylinders correctly?
If cylinders are not stored appropriately, or unused cylinders are stored unnecessarily, it can be dangerous. When heated, cylinders explode, can fragment or behave like a rocket – and walls are not adequate protection when a cylinder explodes.

Firefighters have been killed and injured by cylinders involved in fires. Consequently, firefighters will adopt a defensive approach if they know or suspect cylinders are involved. This means they may not be able to protect your property due to the extreme danger to life.
How should I store and manage cylinders on my farm?
  • Identify and keep a record of the location of all cylinders on your farm.
  • Limit the number of cylinders kept.
  • Store cylinders on their own, outside in a cage or similar locked store, with a sign indicating their presence.
  • Erect signs outside buildings to alert firefighters to the presence of cyclinders.
Any unneeded acetylene cylinders should be removed immediately and taken back to the supplier. Acetylene cylinders will result in major disruption and huge financial implications if involved in a fire.

Review your work and decide whether you need to use it, as there are alternatives, such as oxy-propane are petro-gen that are much safer to use.

If a fire does occur, provide the fire officer with as much information as possible about the types and locations of cylinders on your farm.
What are the risks & dangers of acetylene cylinders?
  • They are particularly dangerous as the contents decompose when heated and the explosion can be catastrophic.
  • Some explode, while others fragment, so they are unpredictable and highly dangerous.
  • The process may not be stopped by simply cooling the cylinder with water.
  • As a result, a 200-metre area will be evacuated around the fire for a 24-hour period, and firefighting may cease if deemed unsafe.
  • An owner may be liable for compensating anyone affected by this, due to the fire safety law.
  • The implications if you live near a mainline railway or major road etc. could be devastating.

Evacuation of livestock

It is too late to plan for an evacuation of livestock once a fire has started. You must plan in advance how you will remove your livestock if a fire occurs, remembering conditions may be dark, smoky, hot and noisy.

Plan for an evacuation now
You should consider the following things:
  • Herd animals like to be where they feel safe and many have been known to try and return to their pen or stable during fires. This is highly dangerous for both firefighters and animals. Identify a refuge where you can take and secure your animals
  • Think about which way your gates are hung. They should open in the direction of travel to avoid animals becoming trapped.
  • All livestock should be evacuated upwind, if possible.
As part of your risk assessment, consider what type of animals you have and whether they need to be separated. A distressed bull will be highly dangerous to remove. Therefore, you may consider housing him in a secure pen away from danger to avoid moving him at all.

Reduce the risk of arson on your farm

It is difficult to understand why someone would set fire to barns or livestock buildings, but sadly this does occur. We are working closely with Northumbria Police to prevent arson from happening on farms, but you can also take measures to help reduce the risk and potential impact of arson on your farm.

Measures you can take to reduce the risk and impact of arson

There are a wide range of potential measures to take in order to reduce risk. The specific measures implemented will depend a lot on the value of potential losses caused by a fire, or the potential inconvenience of a fire. Please consider the following general advice:

  • Ensure your property is properly insured.
  • Make your property as secure as possible – consider security lights or cameras.
  • Be vigilant and look out for your neighbours too.
  • Use your risk assessment to identify hazards and determine how losses can be prevented.
  • Don’t make life easy for an arsonist; clear away rubbish or flammable materials.
Northumbria Police also provide advice about general farm security, which can be accessed by clicking here.

You can also contact your local fire safety officer or Northumbria Police’s crime prevention department to request further advice on arson prevention and security:

Fire safety department: Northumbria Police crime prevention:
  • Dial 101 and ask for Northumbria Police crime prevention.