In 2006 there was a change to how fire safety in business, industrial, and commercial property was legislated. The Regulatory Reform Order replaced over 70 separate components of fire safety legislation and gives responsibility to those who are best placed to address the issues of fire safety. This is usually the owner, or an employer or occupier of the premises and it is their duty to carry out a fire risk assessment and bring in the appropriate safety measures to ensure that the risk to life by fire is minimise, and then keep the assessment up to date.
There are five main steps for completing a fire risk assessment:
- Identify fire hazards – Where could a fire start, how could it start and what could burn.
- Who may be at risk? – Employees, visitors to the building as well as anyone who maybe particularly vulnerable, e.g. Disabled staff.
- Evaluate and implement – Think about the things you have found regarding the potential hazards and who may be at risk and go about removing or reducing those risks to protect the premises and the people who use them.
- Record, plan and train – Write down your findings and what actions you have taken to prevent or reduce the risks. Make a plan on how to prevent fires, and if a fire does start, how you intend to keep people safe. Train any staff for specific roles that may be needed and make sure that ALL staff are clear on what to do if there is a fire.
- Review your plan – Regularly review your risk assessment and plan, making any changes that are needed due to staffing changes or new equipment that may be brought in, keeping a full record.
You as the ‘responsible’ person, can do the assessment yourself, or with the aid of ‘competent’ person(s). The term ‘competent’ person appears in three articles of the regulations and refers to anyone who ‘…has sufficient training and experience or knowledge and other qualities…’ to implement the requirements in view to fire fighting and detection, procedures for serious and imminent danger and danger areas, as well as safety assistance.
There are circumstances where you may feel you would benefit from more expert advice and there are many places you can turn. As well as having companies listed in local directories, you can find health and safety companies online, who can either assist you on your assessment or train you to complete the assessment yourself. There are details of members of a registered scheme, for example, on the Institution of Fire Engineers website. If you are unable to locate a company yourself you may be able to contact your insurer for their recommendations.
There are wide ranges of safety equipment available for commercial use, from emergency exit signs, smoke alarms, fire extinguishers, fire blankets and sprinkler systems to fire doors, fire ladders and escapes. How many of these are needed in your place of work is up to the ‘responsible’ person, and any equipment must be properly maintained and kept in good working order. Any failure of equipment could be deemed the responsibility of the ‘responsible’ person unless there is a maintance contract – in which case the authorities may take action against the contractor.
The regulations also require the Fire and Rescue Authorities to audit business premises in their local area to make sure that there are adequate safety measures in place and the requirements are being met. They also have a duty to provide fire safety advice when requested and act openly to identify risk and where possible, allow the ‘responsible’ person a reasonable timescale to implement any improvements that are suggested by the Authorities.