UK Fire Safety Regulations
Fire safety regulations affect all workplaces in England and Wales. While many workplaces have the basic precautions in place, there are many that don’t. Once you know the basics, such as how to assess the risk and what fundamental safety measures are required, fire safety is not a difficult topic, and the fire safety regulations will be easy to implement.
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, as it is known (or RRO), is designed to turn almost all the earlier pieces of UK fire safety legislation into one all-inclusive law.
Here is a précis of the important parts of the Order that concern all those who run a business or institution situated in a building, based on key words used and their meanings:
- Responsible Person: the person who owns or controls the business or premises
- Competent Person: this could be an employee or an outside contractor appointed and trained to carry out fire fighting duties, contact the emergency services, and assist in evacuations
- Enforcement: failing to satisfy the applicable articles of the Order may result in a fine or up to two years imprisonment
- Fire Risk Assessment: if the responsible person employs 5 or more people, or if the premises are licensed, or if the inspector wants it, this vital plank of the Order must be officially documented
The Fire Safety Order applies to all buildings in use, except domestic premises and some kinds of premises that are a specific risk and where other regulations apply. It also places duties on a ‘responsible person’ not only to protect employees but members of the public. Don’t forget that every building is going to be different – different fire hazards in different places affecting different people.
The Law requires that you carry out a Risk Assessment as you must with most regulations relating to health and safety. You need to consider how a fire would affect the people in the building, starting with those immediately at risk from the fire. The outcomes of the Risk Assessments must be presented in writing where five or more people are employed, in line with many other regulations. To help you here is a free to download check-list.
Prevention is better than cure so one of the reasons for Fire Risk Assessment is to reduce the chance of fires. A fire prevention plan should be easy to put together and should be a matter of common sense for most workplaces. Some measures to consider include making sure rubbish is not stored near the premises, and ensuring that the electrical wiring is tested and inspected frequently.
The most important fire safety regulations to consider include:
- A whistle, bells or klaxon, or some other kind of fire warning
- Automatic fire detectors might be needed in some buildings, especially if a fire could be a risk to people if it is not detected (such as a two-story building) or there are large numbers of people in the building
- There must be fire extinguishers in the building, not only to maintain exits while people evacuate but also to control small fires
- There must be enough fire exits in the building for the number of people who use it and exits must lead as directly to safety as possible
- Exits must be clearly marked with exit signs and they must be kept clear and readily available
- Fire exit routes might need to be protected so that the smoke and flames won’t affect people evacuating the building (special wall cladding and heavy duty plasterboard is often required)
- Emergency lighting might be needed in some situations to light exit routes and rooms in the event of a power failure
- Fire equipment (including emergency lighting) must be maintained so that they are in working order all the time
There must be a fire procedure for the building, outlining people’s responsibilities and the evacuation plan in case of fire
Under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, as the owner or occupier of non-domestic premises, you are the ‘responsible person’ who must arrange staff training, fire drills and evacuation procedures and policies for your staff and visitors. You are also responsible for maintaining records of what you do relating to fire safety, click here to download your free log-book template.
As a business owner, you will already invest in fire safety equipment for your premises but your staff need to know how to use fire safety equipment such as fire extinguishers, as they may well be the first person to discover a fire.
Your staff needs to be aware of:
- your business fire safety policy, and who to contact in an emergency
- your fire safety and evacuation procedures; when and how to act if they discover a fire
- the fire safety equipment used on your premises, where it is located and how to operate them if required
- the fire safety signs, what they mean, and how to act accordingly
See my separate article on Pub Fire Drills
Fire safety training saves lives and property, but only if it is delivered in such a way that staff assimilate important information effectively, in my experience this is best achieved face to face with a qualified instructor. Please see the Training page for details of How To Run A Pub Fire Marshall training courses.