COVID and climate change are now driving health and safety agenda
There are three words beginning with the letter ‘c’ that are increasingly replacing that of ‘cost’ in informing the narrative around risk in the retail sector.
Cost-effectiveness is still important to risk practitioners, but ‘COVID’ and ‘Climate Change’ are also critical considerations in terms of strategic investment in safety for staff and customers alike and long-term business sustainability.
From the so-called ‘c-suite’ to the procurement teams, these considerations have percolated business thinking around reducing unnecessary contact – the limited access to head offices and more field workers working from home, for example – to corporate social responsibility (CSR) and how technology can not only protect people, but also the long-term future of the planet.
All retail businesses are looking to invest in technologies that optimise efficiencies, reduce waste and lessen the impact of a business’s carbon footprint.
Suppliers are therefore either investing in new approaches or re-purposing their core offerings to provide solutions that not only deliver on the 'three c' criteria, but also capture the zeitgeist of the time.
One example has been the re-imagining of one of the most everyday items in retail stores and head offices – the humble fire extinguisher.
The Britannia P50 fire extinguisher, launched in 2011, has been a best seller across the retail space but has come into its own in recent months as a result of the COVID and climate change emergencies with brands including Hobbycraft and Frasers Group, the parent company of Sports Direct, House of Fraser, Game and Flannels, rolling it out across their estates.
The P50, sold through carefully selected distributors including ECO Fire Safety Ltd, has three USPs over conventional fire extinguishers.
Its ability to extinguish the vast majority of fires, including electrical, means that only one extinguisher is required rather than the traditional two. The marketing material highlights the consequential life-saving reduction of incidents of ‘fire paralysis’ – the inability of the user to act fast enough to put out the flames because they are confused as to which appliance to use.
Secondly, unlike traditional extinguishers, the P50 can be self-maintained by trained retail staff for 10 years rather than having to annually call out maintenance personnel, which dramatically cuts costs and, in the current COVID climate, reduces the need and potential risk of additional engineers entering the retail premises or head offices.
Finally, the P50 is recyclable, corrosive resistant and energy efficient to manufacture. Its materials, lightweight design and application, means it only requires one manufacturer overall per decade and cuts the incidents of disposal of hazardous materials, which is also kinder to the environment.
Jason Gorman, managing director for Eco Fire Safety, said: “As a business proposition, it is a dream product that was always a game changer, but has created a lot of interest in the retail sector in recent times.
“From a fire paralysis point of view, it improves fire safety because no matter how often people are trained, in the heat of a fire, they may become confused or not know which extinguisher to use for the type of fire that it is – the P50 gives one choice and one choice only!
“Apart from the environmental benefits, the fact that stores have many extinguishers means that maintenance costs are eliminated for at least 10 years.
“In addition, not having an engineer visiting the store means a reduction in the risk. It was always a security factor before the pandemic in terms of cutting the number of contractors on site, but it is a huge tick in the box in terms of health and safety today.”
With customers including many of the high street’s big names, Eco Fire Safety, working with Britannia, has also been able to demonstrate a major return on investment with some businesses looking to roll the programme out beyond the UK.
“This has meant a huge amount of interest in the product because of the improved safety and the major CSR benefits of the product,” said Jason.
“Apart from the retail stores, there is a growing domestic market for the P50. There is a smaller model which is appealing because, apart from being safe to use, can easily fit under the kitchen sink.”
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