Fire Safety Legislation – Historical and Current
Fire safety has been an important concern in the UK for centuries. In the mediaeval period, laws were enacted to regulate the storage of flammable materials and to require fire breaks in towns and villages. Early firefighting efforts focused on extinguishing fires that had already begun, but by the late eighteenth century, fire prevention had become a priority. In 1774, Parliament passed the first fire safety legislation in the UK, which required all houses to be equipped with fireplaces and chimneys. This law was later amended to require that all new buildings be constructed with fire-resistant materials.
In the twentieth century, fire safety increasingly came to be seen as a matter of public health, and a series of laws were passed to ensure that all buildings met certain minimum standards for fire safety. Today, fire safety is an important consideration in all aspects of building design and construction, and strict regulations are in place to ensure the safety of occupants in case of fire. We’re going to take a look at how fire safety legislation and current statutory provisions have evolved over the years, looking at notable instances which were a cause for change in legislation.
London Building Act 1930-39
The London Building Act 1930-39 allowed for building byelaws to be created to help improve safety and minimise the risk of fires. 1938 saw the first set of byelaws created which covered many of the previous constructional matters in other acts.
The Factories Act 1937
This Factories Act 1937 is an important piece of legislation that was updated from the Factories and Workshop Act 1901. In this act, District Councils had been given power in regards to premises where more than 40 individuals were employed. This added a whole new scope of requirements for factories to provide more detailed guidance for a means of escape during a fire emergency.
Fire services Act 1947
This was an important point in the history of fire safety legislation as it was the act that put the Fire Brigade in charge of fire safety. Before this act was put into place, the management of fire safety was done by local authorities.
The Factories Act 1961
The Factories Act was then updated again in 1961 to include the need for fire alarms and detection systems and more effective means of escape to improve fire safety in factories. This review occurred because of a fire in February 1956 where eight people were killed at the Eastwood Mills, Keighley. The main point of this amendment was to provide Fire Brigades with the power to inspect factories for fire safety as well as the fire certificates being updated to to include provisions for fighting a fire and a means of escape.
Licensing Act 1961
Following a fire that broke out in the Top Storey Club in Bolton in May of 1961, amendments were made almost immediately to the Licensing Act to update the requirements for the safety of individuals in club premises in the event of a fire. It intended to provide fire authorities with greater input when it came to club premises as 19 people died in this fire due to there being only one way out, which was a single wooden staircase.
Offices, Shops and Railway Premises Act 1963
Legislation for the Offices, Shops and Railway Premises Act was amended in 1963 because of a fire that broke out in the William Hendrson & Sons department store in Liverpool. This fire resulted in 10 people becoming trapped on the fourth floor as they could not get out.
Fire Precautions Act 1971
The Fire Precautions Act was passed into law to improve the fire protection standards after a fire broke out at the Rose & Crown Hotel in Saffron Walden on Boxing Day in 1969. It stated that all buildings, whether they are new or old, must be inspected by a fire safety officer in order to receive a fire safety certificate. In the event that the fire safety officer did not feel that the premises were up to safety standards or presented a risk of fire, this act also provided them with the power to prohibit use of the premises. This act was eventually revoked for England and Wales when the Regulatory Reform (fire safety) Order 2005 was put into place.
Fire Safety Sports Grounds 1987
Another notable instance in the history of fire safety legislation was the fire that broke out at Bradford City Football Ground in 1985 which resulted in 56 deaths. This huge death toll caused a review of Safety of Ground Sports Act 1975 which changes were made to. This act was also then modified and replaced in parts by the regulatory reform (fire safety) Order 2005.
Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005
In 2005, the UK government passed the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, which updated fire safety legislation for the first time in over 30 years. It applied to England and Wales, and the order consolidated multiple pieces of fire safety legislation into one comprehensive framework, making it easier for businesses to comply with fire safety regulations. It also introduced new fire safety requirements, such as the need for fire risk assessments to be carried out by a competent person.
The fire safety order applies to all workplaces, including shops, offices, factories, warehouses, hotels and restaurants. It also applies to certain types of outdoor events. The Fire Safety Order introduced the requirement for a Fire Risk Assessment to be carried out in order to minimise the risk of fire. The fire safety order also requires businesses to appoint a ‘responsible person’ to oversee fire safety arrangements. The responsible person had to be able to provide the means of detection and warning, i.e an alarm system, a means evacuation in the event of a fire, emergency lighting to help escape, a means to fight the fight, i.e fire extinguishers, fire safety training for all staff members, and the publication of an emergency plan for the specified building or premises.
The Fire Safety Order made it a legal requirement for fire authorities in England and Wales to publish the name of responsible persons and addresses of premises that have a lack of compliance with current legislations and fire safety regulations.
Fire Safety Act 2021
The Fire Safety Act 2021 was introduced in response to the Grenfell Tower fire, which highlighted the importance of fire safety in high-rise buildings. The act requires responsible persons to carry out regular fire safety checks and to make sure their properties comply with the latest fire safety standards. Landlords must also provide tenants with clear information about fire safety procedures and make sure that all exits are clear and easily accessible.
In addition, the act requires landlords to fit smoke alarms in all properties and to install fire extinguishers in common areas. By introducing these measures, the Fire Safety Act 2021 will help to protect tenants from fire and make sure that action is taken quickly in the event of a fire.
MCFP – Your go-to for fire safety
It’s clear that fire safety legislation has evolved greatly over the years, largely as a result of learning from our mistakes and how we can avoid the same tragedies next time. As we can see, this is still happening to this day with the Grenfell Tower fire highlighting the need for new legislation and regulations for high-rise buildings and the use of cladding on buildings.
Here at MCFP, we understand the importance of fire protection. That’s why our team of expert engineers have created high-quality fire alarms for use in homes, buildings or the workplace. We will first conduct an assessment of the premises to decide which fire detections and alarm design is best, after which we also provide professional installation, maintenance and testing to ensure that your system stays working to the highest standard of British regulations.
We also offer Fire Risk Assessment services to ensure that all buildings follow fire safety compliance and any risks of fire are noted and dealt with accordingly. We are a third-party organisation certified to carry out Life Safety Fire Risk Assessments. Contact us today and our team of friendly experts will be happy to assist with any questions or queries you may have.