Fire Safety Regulation Guide – Are You Compliant?
Fire Safety Regulation – Are you compliant?
Only a small proportion of businesses survive a major fire.
A fire risk assessment is not an option – it is a legal requirement.
As an employer, owner, occupier or managing agent (the responsible person) you can be held personally responsible for the general fire precautions within your premises.
In the event of a fire, responsible persons must prove that all reasonable precautions have been taken to safeguard ALL relevant persons including employees, the public, visitors and contractors.
Fire Safety Regulation – Introduction
The cost of a fire is usually high and following a serious fire, many companies do not re-open. According to government figures, the average cost of a fire in a commercial building is estimated at £44,400. In 2020/21 there were over 11,900 fires in business buildings.
Considering that during this time most workplaces were closed or at reduced capacity due to COVID-19, this is a staggering and distressing figure. The cost of a fire is not limited to bricks and mortar or equipment – the personal cost is equally as high. As a result of these fires, 14 people were killed and over 700 injured.
Fire Safety Regulation – Legislation
Fire risk assessment should be the foundation for all fire safety and precaution on your premises. Not only is it vital for protecting your assets and employees, but it is a legal requirement as set out by the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. Any breach of these fire safety regulations can result in serious penalties and enforcement that can tarnish a company’s reputation and drain its resources.
Prior to the introduction of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, which took effect in October 2006, it was easy to get confused in the myriad of legislation surrounding fire prevention, protection and liability. Following its introduction, authorities have demonstrated their intent that the Regulatory Reform Order guidance is to be rigorously enforced with the overall aim of reducing avoidable fires and subsequent death, injury, loss of property and business.
The main objectives of the Order are to create a climate of fire prevention that is based on risk assessment, therefore ensuring that fire safety facilities and equipment are well maintained and that premises have an emergency plan should the worst occur. These regulations and the Order itself are supported in law, making it a legal requirement for all non-domestic premises to have a complete and current fire risk assessment.
Responsibility for complying with the Order lies with the ‘responsible person’. In a workplace, this is the employer or any other person who may have control over any part of the premises (e.g. the occupier or owner). On all other premises, the person or people in control of the premises will be responsible. If there is more than one responsible person on any type of premises (e.g. a multi-occupied complex) all must take reasonable steps to cooperate and coordinate with each other in their building’s fire safety. If you are the responsible person for your workplace, you must carry out a full risk assessment that focuses on ensuring the safety of all personnel in the event of a fire. This can be done yourself or by a registered third-party service such as MCFP.
Fire Safety Regulation – The Fire Risk Assessment
In line with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, the law requires you to:
- Carry out a complete fire risk assessment of your workplace (considering all employees, the public, disabled people and people with special needs).
- Identify the significant findings and people at risk (these must be documented if you employ more than five people).
- Provide and maintain appropriate fire precautions.
- Provide fire safety information, instruction and training to employees.
- Nominate people to undertake special fire safety roles under your emergency plan.
- Consult employees about the nomination of people and proposals to improve fire precautions.
- Inform other employees who have workplaces in the building about any significant risks which may affect their safety and cooperate with them to reduce/control these risks.
- Establish a suitable means of contacting emergency services.
- Ensure that your employees cooperate with you to ensure that the workplace is safe from fire and its effects.
- If you are not an employer but have control of premises which contain more than one workplace, you are responsible for complying with the fire regulations.
What should A Fire Risk Assessment Cover?
A fire risk assessment is an extensive evaluation of your workplace’s fire safety level. If your workplace employs more than five people, you are required by law to keep a written recording of your risk assessment. Furthermore, every risk assessment should be reviewed regularly – at least annually or after any change to the building’s structure. In line with the Regulatory Reform Order, your fire safety risk assessment should cover:
Identification of hazards
According to Collins English Dictionary, a fire hazard is any “object, building etc. that could easily catch fire or cause a fire and thereby endanger life”. Hazards may include:
- Electrical equipment
- Organic materials such as stacks of paper, wood etc.
- Heating appliances
Sources of ignition
Similar to hazards, this refers to anything that may trigger the ignition of a fire. This could include:
- Flammable liquids
- Open flames (such as during cooking)
- Sparks (e.g. from electrical equipment)
- Hot surfaces
Identification of persons at risk
Including employees, the public and any vulnerable persons.
Means of escape in the building
Fire escape routes should be detected, clearly labelled and kept free of any hazards at all times.
Fire warning system (alarm)
Fire alarm systems are vital for ensuring the safety of your workplace as they rapidly detect and alert you to a fire, allowing time for life-saving firefighting procedures (use of fire extinguishers, water sprinkler systems, alerting of rescue services etc.) as well as the safe evacuation of all individuals within the building. At MCFP, we not only provide first-class fire risk assessment services but are also BAFE registered, expert installers of a range of fire safety equipment including fire extinguishers, fire alarms and the innovative Automist sprinkler system. Therefore, should you choose to employ MCFP as your next fire safety team, you’ll be sure to receive a thorough, diligent risk assessment of your premises alongside rapid access to industry-leading fire safety equipment; all supplied, fitted and maintained by highly trained, registered technicians.
Identification of fire routine
An efficient evacuation route and evacuation procedure should be devised in order to allow personnel to reach safety before rescue services attend the scene.
Identification of any problems with the above and instigating a programme to put them right
This is one of the most important and fundamental parts of any fire safety risk assessment. Any faults in your system should be recorded and resolved immediately by trained technicians such as MCFP.
Fire Safety Regulation – Enforcement
It is the duty of every fire authority to enforce the Regulatory Reform Order (2005) and its regulations within their area. Some exceptions exist for Crown and MOD property as well as certain construction sites and sports grounds where HSE, Crown or local authorities will act as enforcement.
The enforcing authorities have the power to inspect your premises to check that you are complying with your duties under the guidance and regulations set out by the Order. They will look for evidence that you have carried out a suitable fire risk assessment and acted upon the significant findings of that assessment. If you are required to record the assessment outcome, they will expect to see a copy of this.
If the enforcing authority is dissatisfied with the outcome of your fire risk assessment or the action you may have taken, they may issue an enforcement notice that requires you to make certain improvements or, in extreme cases, a notice of prohibition that restricts the use of your premises until appropriate improvements are made.
Failure to comply with any duty imposed by the Order or any notice issued by the enforcing authority is an offence and may result in fines or prison time.
Fire Safety Regulation – Who Should Complete The Fire Risk Assessment?
The Regulatory Reform Order (2005) states that in order to be compliant, a company is obligated to appoint a ‘competent’ person to carry out the fire risk assessment. The Order’s definition of a competent person is as follows: “a person with enough training and experience or knowledge and other qualities to enable them properly to assist in undertaking the preventative and protective measures”.
From this, it is possible to see that almost anyone can carry out a fire risk assessment. Many people have started producing fire risk assessments for commercial purposes, sometimes without the necessary experience, qualifications or insurance. Whilst some have been good, some have proven not fit for purpose and left lives at risk and companies out of pocket.
The UK’s fire organisations recognised this and formed the Fire Risk Assessment Competency Council (FRACC) in 2014, issuing guidance on choosing competent assessors and producing registers. The third-party register of certificated fire risk assessment companies and assessors is held as a BAFE SP205 register. This list of certified fire risk assessors can be found on the following websites; BAFE, FIA, FPA, IFE and several others.
BAFE SP205 third-party-accredited registered companies such as MCFP provide benchmark recognition of their capability in providing high-quality fire risk assessments for their clients, who receive certificated fire risk assessments on completion. This provides the client with the peace of mind that they’ve taken the necessary, reasonable steps to comply with their legal obligations and requirements under fire safety legislation.
In the event of a fire, the content and quality of your fire risk assessment, along with your preventative equipment and evacuation plans, will come under scrutiny from the Fire Officer, HSE, Courts and your insurance company. Any breaches or inadequacies can result in hefty fines and even imprisonment. Therefore, you should never scrimp on the quality of your fire risk assessment. If you are concerned about your capacity to perform a rigid risk assessment on your own, consulting a registered third-party company such as MCFP is the ideal way to ensure that your business is fully compliant with regulation and legislation and that you, your employees, and your business are protected in the event of a fire. Our assessors have many years of experience, are backed by nationally recognised qualifications and, for your peace of mind, carry £10 million of liability insurance.