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Fire regulations awareness found lacking

by Andy Clutton

Commercial awareness around potential changes to fire safety regulations is lacking across the UK, with more than a quarter (26.8%) of respondents reporting a lack of knowledge around the 2019-21 Fire Safety Bill, a new survey shows.

The bill, anticipated to come into effect next month, is set to amend the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, and arguably represents the biggest change in building safety for a generation, aiming to provide clarity over all the fire safety risks that respective building owners and managers are responsible for assessing, such as cladding, internal/external walls and fire doors.

JLA’s 2021 Fire Safety Accountability Report surveyed 504 respondents deemed to be the Responsible Person (employer or building owner or person with control over a building) for ensuring fire safety in their workplace or commercial property, to reveal their level of understanding around fire safety requirements, procedures and priorities.

While 73.2% of those surveyed claimed they understood the bill either very or somewhat well, this left only 26.8% of businesses or commercial properties operating with a satisfactory knowledge of it.

Worryingly, one in ten (10.5%) of respondents admitted they knew nothing about the bill. Interestingly, women were found to be twice more likely to have no knowledge of the bill, with 14.6% admitting this compared to just 7.7% of men.

Younger respondents seemed more confident in their fire safety knowledge, with those aged 55+ accounting for the highest proportion of people who didn’t know about the fire bill (26%) compared to 5.8% of those aged 25-34.

When it comes to where people turn to for guidance on fire safety regulations and requirements, a Government or Local Council is the go-to source with 45.2% of those surveyed choosing them – but a concerning 4.2% admit they don’t seek any advice at all.

Other key findings from the survey included that more than half (53%) of those responsible for ensuring fire safety on behalf of their business or commercial property felt they could be doing more to reduce fire risk.

Training was also found to be lacking across the UK, with more than half (50.2%) of people responsible for fire safety admitting they do not train all staff, while a worrisome 12% don’t offer fire safety training to anyone.

This has clear implications on the safety of commercial property managers, workers and patrons across the UK, who need to prioritise fire safety urgently in order to reduce fire risk and adhere to the potential new regulations.

Rob Harris, Managing Director of JLA Fire comments on the findings: “While it’s enlightening to see that some demographics have a satisfactory awareness of reducing fire risk, it is concerning that a large proportion of those surveyed are unaware of fire safety procedures, and believe they could be doing more to protect those around them.

“Budget constraints or added stress – or indeed the Coronavirus crisis – are not adequate reasons to avoid rectifying this awareness, as the potential damage a fire could cause would have far more costly implications on a business’ reputation and finances.

“By identifying the gaps in people’s knowledge and fire safety procedures, we know the areas that need significant improvement and we urge employers and fire safety employees to conduct widespread training, equipment checks and procedural updates as a priority.”

View JLA’s 2021 Fire Safety Accountability Report here

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