Know your fire safety facts

Fire safety is often not the first thing on an owner’s mind in the day-to-day running of a business. But when fire strikes it’s utterly destructive because of the very nature of the materials involved writes Adam Bernstein.

The governing legislation for fire safety is the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. The order applies throughout England and Wales and covers general fire precautions and other fire safety duties which are designed to protect persons in the case of a fire. The order requires fire precautions to be put in place ‘where necessary’ and where reasonable and practicable in the circumstances.

The responsibility for complying with the order rests with the ‘responsible person’ - in a workplace, this is the employer and any other person who may have control of any part of the premises, for example an occupier or an owner. The responsible person must carry out a fire risk assessment which must focus on the safety of all relevant people who may be affected by a fire.

Identifying risks that can be reduced

A fire risk assessment is an organised and methodical look at the premises, the activities carried out and how a fire may start. It should identify fire hazards; seek to reduce the risk of those hazards causing harm to as low as reasonable practicable and decide what physical fire precautions and management arrangements are necessary to ensure the safety of people within the premises if a fire does start.

It should pay particular attention to those at particular risk and must include consideration of any dangerous substances which are likely to be on the premises that may act as an accelerant.

It’s clearly important that the responsible person is fully aware of the need to manage the premises to ensure the safety and wellbeing of those onsite at all times. Staff must be trained to prevent or limit the risk of fire, recognise and neutralise potential fire hazards and to know how to respond to an emergency both individually and collectively and what actions and communications must be undertaken.

Robust procedures to avoid fires

To achieve this, it is not only critical to have good and regularly updated staff training, but also to have robust procedures to avoid fires occurring, to ensure the maintenance of installed fire safety systems, to ensure that emergency escape routes are accessible and to have clear emergency plans in place so that everyone knows how to respond to a fire if one were to occur.

In addition to the completion of a robust fire risk assessment and action plan, firms also need to comply with a number of other fire safety duties.

Employees must be provided with comprehensive information on the risks to them identified by the fire risk assessment, details of the measures taken to prevent fires and how these measures will protect them if a fire breaks out. Non-employees, such as agency workers or contract workers should be covered too.

In addition, the premises and anything connected with firefighting, fire detection and warning or emergency routes and exits must also be regularly maintained by a competent person to ensure they are in good working order.

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