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.

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

Firstly, if you need any advice or further information on keeping your farm safe from fire, please contact us: 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 about fires and can escape to safety in plenty of time
  • make a farm fire plan for animal evacuation

If you do not comply with the law, this could result in:
  • loss of life or injuries 
  • damage to property

The penalties for not complying with the law will range from a fine to a custodial sentence. In extreme cases, this will include both.

If you don’t obey the law, you could lose your business or be prosecuted. You could face a prison sentence of up to two years.
If you employ five or more people, you are lawfully required to carry out a fire safety assessment for your farm buildings. You also need to regularly record your findings.

The law firmly places the responsibility for all fire safety matters with the farm manager, building owner, and employees.

Please click here for government guidance on fire safety risk assessments for animal premises and stables.
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. This helps to protect life and property on your farm.

Please click here for the Northumberland Fire plan template.

Once your fire plan is complete, please submit it to: Please click on the blue drop-down boxes below for more information:
  • Farm contact details
  • Vet contact details
  • Fertiliser store information
  • Locations and types of water sources
  • Electricity supply
  • Locations of any asbestos
  • Fuel storage
  • Types of cylinders, and how cylinders are stored
  • Information about any possible hazards
  • Make a farm fire plan.
  • Record details about the fertilisers and chemicals you store, and submit this information alongside the fire plan.
Please click here for the fertiliser/chemical record sheet.

 

  • Clearly display your property sign at the farm entrance.
  • Find out where your nearest fire hydrant is and keep it clear so it can be located quickly in the event of a fire.
  • Make sure other water supplies are readily available for use.
  • Ensure fire engines can reach all areas of your property.
  • Please consider whether or not your cattle grids will support fire appliances.
  • Cut back trees to allow easy access.
Electrical problems are a common cause of fires on farms. Many of these could be avoided by taking simple steps.

Please click on the blue drop-down boxes below for further information:
Exploding batteries can be catastrophic.

Please ensure you charge your batteries in well-ventilated areas away from flames or sparks.
 
Problems:
  • overloaded sockets can overheat
  • wrongly wound/unwound extension reels can overheat
  • old portable electrical appliances are often untested
  • wiring is susceptible to gnawing by vermin
  • extensions to existing systems can overload

Solutions:
  • always check the rating of tools and 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
  • Avoid ‘daisy chaining’ extension leads (plugging one extension lead into another extension lead)
  • please ensure that appliances are periodically checked by qualified electricians
  • your wiring should be rodent-proof by fixing under beams, or in conduit
Problems:
  • lights, including halogen bulbs, are very hot and located in places where cobwebs and dust can build up and ignite very easily
  • lights and other electrical items often run through bales of hay and straw, which are extremely flammable

Solutions:
  • use bulkhead-type lighting and ensure fluorescent lights have covers to protect them from dust
  • clean all lights and electrical equipment regularly to avoid the build-up of dust and cobwebs
High voltage electricity lines are not insulated. They have more than 1,000 volts and are arranged horizontally.

Please avoid using ladders, hoses, or anything conductive near them.
 
Due to the nature of farming, there are usually a number of flammable materials stored on farms.

You can reduce the risk of fire by taking some simple measures:
  • Don’t store flammable materials with livestock or vehicles.
  • Store hay and straw in a barn downwind of prevailing wind (if possible).
  • Remove hay and straw from fields as soon as possible after harvesting, and store separately from buildings housing fuels, agrochemicals, and machinery.
  • Hay and straw should be stored in stacks of reasonable sizes, and should be placed 10 metres apart.
Acetylene cylinders are commonly involved in agricultural incidents. They can be extremely dangerous if a fire occurs.

If cylinders are not stored appropriately, or unused cylinders are stored unnecessarily, it can be dangerous. When heated, cylinders can explode and fragment. Unfortunately, walls aren’t adequate protection when a cylinder explodes.

Firefighters have been killed and injured by cylinders involved in fires. Firefighters therefore will adopt a defensive approach if they suspect cylinders are involved. This means that they may not be able to protect your property due to the extreme danger to life.

Please click on the blue drop down boxes below for more information regarding cylinder storage:
  • Identify and keep a detailed record of where all cylinders are kept.
  • Limit the amount of cylinders kept.
  • Store cylinders on their own, outside in a cage (or alternative, locked storage), with a sign indicating their presence.
  • Erect signs outside buildings which will inform firefighters of the whereabouts of any cylinders.

PLEASE NOTE: Any unneeded acetylene cylinders should be removed immediately and taken back to the supplier.

Please consider that oxy-propane and petro-gen are much safer to use.
  • The contents of the cylinders decompose when heated, and the explosion can be catastrophic.
  • Cooling the cylinder with water may not stop the explosion.
  • A 200-metre area will be evacuated around the area of the acetylene cylinder with testing every hour until the cylinder is deemed to be safe, firefighting will stop if it is deemed unsafe.
  • The owner may be liable for compensating anyone affected by this, due to the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005

Please consider the risks, especially if you live near a mainline railway or a major road.
 
It is too late to plan for an evacuation of livestock once a fire has started. You must plan in advance for an evacuation, considering the following:

  • Herd animals like to be where they feel safe, and many may try to return to their pen or stable during a fire.
  • Please take your animals to a refuge where you can secure them and keep them safe.
  • Your gates should open in the direction of travel to avoid any animals becoming trapped.
  • All livestock should be evacuated upwind (if possible).
It is hard to understand why someone would want to set fire to barns or livestock buildings but, sadly, this does happen.

We are working closely with Northumbria Police to help prevent arson on farms, and to reduce the potential impact on your livestock.

 

Reduce the risk and impact of arson

  • Make sure your property is fully insured.
  • Please consider security lights or cameras so your property is as secure as possible.
  • Be vigilant, and look out for your neighbours too.
  • Use your risk assessment to identify hazards, and to determine how any losses can be prevented.
  • Don’t make life easy for an arsonist: clear away your rubbish and any flammable materials.

If you need further advice about arson prevention on your farm, please contact: