Focus on Fire

We received this article from our law partners Ridouts pointing out what CQC are looking at around fire safety and so asked our Fire & Safety department for a quick briefing on what care providers can do. Please read the below to make sure you are doing all you can around fire safety. Please also look out for our Fire Study days which we hope to run face to face from June 2022.

Fire Safety in the Care Industry – Update

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic means that care home managers have many priorities in managing infection control and staffing challenges.

We recognise that the scale of these challenges may mean that the focus on fire safety measures may be lower on the list of priorities than they should be. We are keen to remind managers about the critical importance of staffing levels, emergency plans, and fire safety management arrangements in Care/Nursing Homes and indeed homecare and other types of providers.

Providers are encouraged to review their fire risk assessments and management arrangements to ensure these are considered. It may be valuable to engage with your Fire Risk Assessors to gather further advice if you are concerned about fire safety arrangements, staffing levels or emergency plans.

Emollient Creams









The likelihood of fabric catching fire when using emollients and smoking or being near a naked flame is low, but if this does occur it could cause severe burns which may result in death. We want users to be aware that fabrics which have come into contact with emollient can be highly flammable, even after washing.  The risk is greater when emollients are applied to large areas of the body.

It was previously thought the risk occurred with emollients which contain more than 50% paraffins.  However, the evidence now points to a risk with emollients which contain lower levels of paraffin and with paraffin-free emollients. This advice, therefore, applies to all emollients whether they contain paraffin or not.

It is important that people prescribing, dispensing, or using any emollient, or caring for someone who uses an emollient, are aware of the potential fire risk and take appropriate action. This should be reflected in their fire risk assessment or personal care plan.

Anyone using emollients or skin creams regularly should keep well away from fire, naked flames, or heat sources. A build-up of residue on bedding, clothing and dressings can increase flammability.

Oxygen Safety

Following a recent Coroner’s Regulation 28: Report to Prevent Future Deaths, we would like to take the opportunity to highlight safe working practices when using compressed oxygen cylinders.

The coroner’s report follows the accidental death by fatal burns during oxygen administration at an ambulance response in April of 2020. The report found that the likely cause of the ignition was the sudden, uncontrolled release of oxygen resulting in either adiabatic compression or particle impact within the regulator assembly of the cylinder being used to treat the patient. The report recognises that while both phenomena are extremely rare, the risk of occurrence increases by first opening the ‘patient valve’ [or patient oxygen flow rate selector] before opening the on/off valve [or ‘open/closed’ valve], as occurred in the incident.

Advice when Using Oxygen equipment

You should:

  • Open the [‘open/closed’] valve slowly. Rapid opening, particularly of cylinder valves, can result in brief, high oxygen speeds, causing frictional heat, particularly if any dirt or dust is present. Alternatively, if the system has a dead end, such as where a pressure regulator is connected to an oxygen cylinder, heat can be generated through oxygen. Both cases can result in a fire.
  • Make sure that the regulator outlet valve [patient oxygen flow rate selector] is closed before opening the oxygen cylinder valve, particularly when opening the cylinder valve for the first time after changing cylinders.
  • Make sure that cylinder valves are closed and piped supplies isolated whenever work is stopped. Do not try to cut off the supply of oxygen by nipping or kinking flexible hose when changing equipment.
  • Maintain hoses and other equipment in good condition.

» Click here for a poster on health care facility oxygen fire safety

For any other advice or support with your fire safety arrangements please contact the fire safety team at:

Telephone: 01707 292 310

The service is provided by District so please have the full address of your workplace to hand when making an enquiry.

Tony Smith
Community Protection Manager
Hertfordshire Fire & Rescue Service