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Fire Safety Legislation

UK Fire Safety Legislation and Assessment


October 15, 2012

There is no room for negotiation when it comes to the devastation of an unrelenting fire. Similarly, the most recently established fire safety legislation applies to all places of work with little or no exception. The good news is that most fires are preventable. The statistics bear out this fact where the effort is put forth to taking responsibility for fire safety procedures. By implementing fire safe behaviours that align with wider Government regulatory policies, lives are saved and property is protected. 

This is precisely why the Department for Communities and Local Government backs the efforts of the Fire and Rescue Service in limiting the incidence of fire, whether accidental or deliberate. As respects commercial premises and other buildings where there is public exposure, the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 applies to non-domestic premises all across England and Wales. 

What Fire Safety Order 2005 Entails

The order, which came into effect on 1st October 2006, serves to consolidate and supersede all previous fire safety regulations. Excepting certain higher risk establishments, the new order no longer issues fire certificates. Instead, it is incumbent upon those responsible for the business premises to conduct a ‘suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment’ for the purpose of implementing and maintaining a fire management plan. As defined in the legislation, this applies to:

  • Employers with more than five employees, including part-time employees
  • Business premises visited by members of the public
  • Charity or voluntary organisations
  • Landlords with control over the business premises
  • Owners of HMO properties
  • Self-employed with business premises
  • Owners of licensed premises
  • Alterations notice in force

Where the Order Applies

The order covers many types of buildings and structures, including open spaces. Some examples include:

  • Shops and offices
  • Care homes
  • Hospitals
  • Pubs and restaurants
  • Clubs
  • Schools
  • Hotels and hostels
  • Common areas shared by multiple households
  • Sports Centres
  • Factories
  • Warehouses
  • Tents and Marquees
  • Community halls or community premises
  • Places of Worships

It does not apply to domestic dwellings, such as private homes or individual flats whether in a block or in a house. It has been the goal of the new regulations to provide a simplified method that, when followed, makes it much easier for responsible parties to understand the expectation. Through a comprehensive, up-to-date risk assessment, it is entirely possible to reduce or remove the risk of fire. Without it, proprietors are subject to prosecution in the event of a premises fire. The legislation already has been instrumental in fulfilling legislative targets of arson reduction and improved fire safety outcomes. 

Fire Risk Assessment

The purpose of fire risk assessment is to ensure that each property complies with the requirements set forth in The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order. Implementing the checklist and following the management plan will reduce the risk of fires in premises by aiding in developing safeguards meant to protect staff and visitors on a business premises. This will also result in reducing the risk of fire to business assets, and in the unlikely event of a premises fire, the damage and danger are minimal.

Five Step Plan

It is the responsibility of the business premises owner or manager to meet the requirements set forth in the order. It is possible to consult a qualified third party to carry out the steps, however, the responsibility for the order will rest with the owner or manager, under the law. Initially, a five-step checklist must be completed to either correct or identify potential problem areas followed by regular management of the items on the list. Here is a brief overview: 

Step 1 – Identify:

 

  • fire hazards – including sources of ignition, such as commercial processes, naked flames or heaters;
  • fuel – such as overstocked products, built-up waste, textiles or display materials;
  • oxygen – such as medicinal or commercial oxygen supplies that are extremely flammable.

Step 2 – Identify people at risk who are:

  • working nearest to fire dangers;
  • alone or working in isolated areas and would need to be alerted in the event of a fire;
  • parents with babies and children;
  • elderly, infirm or disabled.

Step 3 – Evaluate, remove, reduce and protect the premises from risk.

  • Evaluate the level of risk of a fire starting and the risk to people in the event a fire starts.
  • Remove or reduce identified risks and any fire hazards where possible, such as keeping flammable materials apart from sources of ignition, replacing highly flammable materials with less flammable ones and implement a safe-smoking policy.
  • Protect people by providing proper precautions. Maintaining a vigilant program designed to stay ahead of the hazards is the best plan in going forward.

At a minimum, it is wise to consider:

  • a fire detection and warning system that will be useful in all situations from shouting out warnings to an electrical detection system that will emit a loud warning;
  • a way to fight small fires;
  • safe routes of escape following the shortest distance;
  • multipurpose fire extinguishers located adjacent to the hazard for which they are designated, such as halon, electrical, metal, wood, textile, paper or solid materials. Portable extinguishing tanks need to be on a routine program of having their contents refreshed or charged in order to fulfil a shelf life with this information readily displayed.

Step 4 – Record, plan, instruct, inform and train. 

  • Record any major findings and actions taken.
  • Discuss findings and work alongside responsible people.
  • Prepare an emergency plan.
  • Inform and instruct all relevant individuals.
  • Provide training.

Step 5 – Review the fire-risk assessment routinely incorporating any and all necessary changes. 

The legislation is enforced by local fire authorities carrying out after-action investigations, conducting spot inspections as well as looking into complaints about fire safety. It is the fire authority’s intent to work with everyone responsible for fulfilling the fire safety order. There are also options to obtain the services of a fire safety specialist or asking for recommendations from the insurance provider.

 

Author – Kevin Fitzgibbon

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