Five Steps to Fire Safety Compliance
Ensure your Business meets Fire Safety Law
Simply put, all businesses need to comply with fire safety legislation. It is essential that business owners and managers understand their duty to comply with current UK fire safety regulations, as the consequences of non-compliance are potentially very serious.
But what is the law, and what are the steps you need to take to ensure you’re compliant?
Fire Safety Order
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 sets out the legal framework for fire safety compliance. The Order is designed to provide a minimum fire safety standard in all non-domestic premises, with a few exceptions.
In the workplace, there must be a designated ‘Responsible Person’. It is their responsibility to carry out certain fire safety duties. These include:
- Ensuring all basic fire safety measures are in place correctly
- Checking all fire protection systems are working as they should
Their ultimate responsibility is to protect the lives of those in the building, and to enable people to escape safely in the event of a fire.
Where does the Fire Safety Order apply?
- Offices and shops
- Factories and warehouses
- Sleeping accommodation such as hotels, residential centres, HMOs and the common areas of blocks of flats
- Nursing and care homes
- Educational premises
- Small to medium places of assembly where up to 300 people gather such as pubs, restaurants, churches and community centres
- Large places of assembly where more than 300 people gather such as shopping centres, sports stadia, libraries and museums
- Theatres, cinemas and concert halls
- Open air venues such as theme parks, zoos and fairgrounds
- Healthcare premises such as doctors’ surgeries and hospitals
- Transport premises such as terminals and interchanges
- Animal premises and stables
1 – Fire Risk Assessment
A fire risk assessment looks at the fire safety hazards within your business premises, as well as fire risks to both people and property.
Whilst you can conduct a fire risk assessment yourself, as it forms the basis for your fire safety strategy we highly recommend you to use a suitably qualified fire risk assessor. They will visit your site and conduct a thorough inspection. They will then produce a fire risk assessment document which details all existing fire safety measures, as well as any non-compliances which must be addressed to ensure complete fire safety.
A fire risk assessment will look at:
- emergency exits and routes to exit
- fire detection and life safety systems
- fire compartmentation and fire breaks
- on-site fire fighting equipment such as extinguishers
- the location and storage of any dangerous substances
- an emergency fire evacuation plan
- the needs of vulnerable people, for example the elderly, young children or those with disabilities
- provision of information to employees and other people on-site
- fire safety training of employees
- policies and procedures in place
All businesses with five or more employees must keep a written, up to date fire risk assessment document, although it is also prudent to do this if you employ less staff.
2 – Fire Safety Systems
Requirements for fire safety systems will vary depending on the size of your site, the activities and business operations that take place and the associated fire risk on-site. Depending on the findings of your fire risk assessment, you may need some or all of the following fire safety systems:
- Fire extinguishers – these must be matched to the fire risks on site
- Sprinkler system
- Fire alarm system and relevant detection
- Emergency lighting and signage
- Fire hose reels
- Wet or dry risers
- Fire suppression systems
- Fire safety training for all employees
3 – Servicing and Maintenance
Regular servicing and maintenance of all fire safety equipment is vital to ensure it works correctly in the unfortunate event of a fire. Working and regularly maintained equipment can mean the difference between a safe evacuation and a potentially life threatening situation.
It is a legal requirement under BS 5839 that your fire alarm system is maintained every 6 months. However, in some buildings with a higher level of risk, this may be required as often as every quarter.
It is also a legal requirement to carry out a ‘weekly test’ of your fire alarm system and record results to ensure your system remains in top working condition.
Fire extinguishers need servicing every year under BS 5036. Some types of fire extinguisher should also be subjected to a discharge test every 5 years.
Other major fire safety systems are usually serviced every 6 to 12 months according to the relevant British Standard for each type of system. Other factors determining the period between maintenance visits depends on the business operations within the building and ultimately, the results of your fire risk assessment.
4 – Fire Safety Training
It’s vital that your employees know what to do in the event of a fire. You should select a fire warden (or more than one depending on the number of employees) who is responsible to help coordinate evacuations in both fire drills and if a fire occurs on site.
All employees should receive basic fire safety training. This will help them understand the fire risks on site, how to safely evacuate a building, and which fire extinguisher to use on which type of fire if it is safe to do so.
It’s important that all new employees receive their fire safety training as soon as possible after taking up employment, and that all employees receive refresher training on a regular basis.
5 – Emergency Planning
An emergency plan helps everyone understand what their role is in the event of an evacuation, and what actions to take. It’s main aim is to ensure everyone can be evacuated in the shortest time, and in the safest way.
Your emergency plan should be reviewed regularly to ensure all staff are aware of it and understand it, and any building changes for example are reflected in the processes it contains.
Penalties for Non-Compliance
Not complying with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 can result in serious consequences for you, the business owner.
Local fire authorities make regular, unannounced inspections of business premises to ensure they’re safe and compliant. Fire safety breaches can result in enforcement notices. If issues are not rectified, then the penalties can be severe. Minor breaches can result in fines of as much as £5000, whilst major offences carry unlimited fines and also prison sentences.
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