Pubs across the country have advised their punters to wrap up warm when visiting for a pint since sites reopened for outdoor trade on Monday 12 April.
Many operators have provided hot water bottles and blankets for customers as well as investing in outdoor heaters.
However, concerns have been raised about the risks of customers bringing along their own portable fuel heaters to pubs and not telling pub staff.
Jeremy Woodcraft, licensing and regulatory solicitor at Keystone Law explained that all businesses were under a duty under health and safety legislation “to ensure that the way they conduct their business does not create a risk of harm to their customers.”
“Simply because the Covid regulations have created a need for pubs to temporarily create or adapt outside areas does not avoid this duty,” he added.
Pub operators wishing to supply heaters in an outside area can easily carry out risk assessments and put “suitable measures” in place to avoid risk.
Difficult to manage
However, the lawyer cautioned against customers bringing their own heaters to a beer garden.
Woodcraft said: “It would be very difficult to manage risks created by heaters brought onto site by customers. Part of the duty of the pub is to ensure that as far as reasonably practicable what their customers do does not create a risk to others.
“Allowing customers to bring their own heaters onto site would create an obvious risk that is very difficult for the pub to manage.”
The advice comes after an incident where a heater exploded at a pub in Suffolk left three customers with serious injuries.
Suffolk Police were called shortly before 10pm on Saturday 24 April following a fire believed to be caused by a small portable fuel heater” at the Kings Head Conrad pub.
Three individuals were taken to hospital after sustaining serious injuries, which were not thought to be life-threatening but could be “potentially life-changing,” the police said.
The Greene King pub posted a statement on Facebook in which it said those injured and their families were “at the forefront of our thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.”
The pub stated the heating appliance was not supplied by the pub and was instead “brought onto the premises without our knowledge.”
The Facebook statement went on to thank the emergency services who attended and the staff and customers who assisted.
A Greene King spokesperson said: “We are closely supporting our partner at the King’s Head following this tragic incident and all our thoughts are with the three people who were injured.”