According to Gov.uk, between 2015 and 2016, over 16,000 non-domestic building fires were attended across the UK. 21 of these resulted in fire-related fatalities and over 1,000 realised fire-related casualties. UK fire safety laws can be very confusing and baffle even the most competent of business owners/managers. On that basis, independent UK fire safety specialist S2 Fire Solutions has created a simple guide to the UK’s fire safety assessment laws in order to help businesses comply with legislation and avoid prosecution.
Simon Millward, director at S2 Fire Solutions, explained to Risk UK: “We often meet with clients who are baffled by the UK’s fire safety legislation and where they stand in terms of safety assessments, so we’ve created a simple guide which explains the most important elements business owners should consider when it comes to being compliant.”
Fire risk assessments
By dint of neglecting fire risk assessments, businesses can face hefty penalties (from prosecution and severe fines through to prison sentences). It’s important that businesses cover themselves for the worse case scenario. All businesses must conduct a fire risk assessment and employ qualified professionals to complete such a task.
What are classed as ‘non-domestic’ premises?
Anything from workplaces and commercial premises, premises that involve public access and common areas of residential buildings are classed as being ‘non-domestic’. If there’s any confusion about who would be responsible for making sure a building is compliant with UK law then it’s worth giving qualified experts a call.
Who’s the ‘Responsible Person’?
If you’re an employer, owner, a landlord or in control of a non-domestic premises, by law you’ll be recognised as the ‘Responsible Person’ in charge of all fire safety for that property.
What are they responsible for?
The designated ‘Responsible Person’ must ensure that they’re aware of what they should be doing. Carrying out or having fire risk assessments of the premises put in place, informing staff/co-workers about the risks identified, maintaining fire safety measures implemented in the premises, making plans for emergency evacuations and providing the necessary fire safety training are all part of the job role for the ‘Responsible Person’.
Regularly reviewed – ie every 12 months – and updated fire risk assessments must be carried out on a business premises. This is the duty of the designated ‘Responsible Person’ in the business. If a business has more than five people regularly on its premises, it’s necessary to keep a written record of any fire risk assessment.
When carrying out the assessment, the ‘Responsible Person’ must identify any fire hazards and any persons at risk, make efforts to remove and/or reduce any possible risks, ensure that any findings are recorded, create a fool-proof emergency plan and provide appropriate training/drills, while also ensuring that the fire risk assessment is maintained and updated regularly.
In order to complete a fire risk assessment without the help of an expert, the ‘Responsible Person’ must consider the following: emergency exits and routes and a comprehensible fire evacuation plan, fire detection/warning systems and alarms, firefighting equipment (such as fire extinguishers) appropriate for the building’s use, the safe storage and removal of hazardous substances, special measures where there are vulnerable, young, elderly or disabled persons and fire safety training for designated staff.
While technically speaking a fire safety assessment can be carried out by the ‘Responsible Person’ within a business, without the help of an expert, it’s worth considering that, should a fire occur and injure or kill anyone within the premises, then the ‘Responsible Person’ will have to account for what happened and, potentially at least, face the consequences of any oversights or bad decisions.
It’s worth bearing in mind that local Fire and Rescue Services may be able to give their advice, but will not carry out a risk assessment for a business.