Business Safety FAQ
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» What fire law applies to my business premises?
The Fire Safety Order affects all non-domestic premises in England and Wales. Its full and correct title is the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, commonly known as the Fire Safety Order (FSO). The Fire Safety Order came into force on 1st of October 2006 and replaced over 100 areas of existing fire safety legislation. Almost all fire safety related legislation is now contained within this one single Order.
» Who does it affect?
If you have some control over a premises e.g. employer, owner, managing agent, landlord or occupier, you may be designated as a 'responsible person' under the Fire Safety Order for fire safety matters within and in the vicinity of the premises. Responsibility for complying with the Order rests with the 'responsible person'.
In a workplace the 'responsible person' is more than likely the employer or any other person who may have control of any part of the premises, e.g. the occupier or owner. If there is more than one responsible person in any type of premises (e.g. a multi-occupied complex), each must take all reasonable steps to co-operate and co-ordinate with each other.
» Where does the Fire Safety Order legislation apply?
The Fire Safety Order applies to virtually all premises and covers nearly every type of building and structure, for example:
- Offices and shops
- Factories, warehouses and other industrial premises
- Premises that provide care, such as residential and nursing homes
- Community halls, places of worship and the like
- Common areas of flats and Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO's)
- Pubs, clubs and restaurants
- Schools and other educational establishments
- Hotels, guest houses, bed and breakfast premises
The Fire Safety Order excludes domestic premises occupied by a single family group.
Guidance for each type of building can be found on the Communities and Local Government website, please visit www.communities.gov.uk
» What do I have to do?
Significantly, carry out a fire risk assessment and act on any findings reported. A fire risk assessment will help you identify risks that can be reduced and to decide the nature of the general fire precautions you need to take to protect people against the fire risks that remain. If you employ five or more people you must record your risk assessment and any significant findings.
The main requirement is to carry out a fire risk assessment of your premises and act on the findings. If you employ 5 or more persons the significant findings MUST be recorded. If you employ less than 5 persons it is still recommended to conduct an assessment and record the findings, so that in the event of an audit by the Fire Authority, due diligence can be demonstrated by a written record.
» What Is a Fire Risk Assessment?
A fire risk assessment is an evaluation of the premises identifying hazards, or potential hazards and determining the likelihood (risk) that such hazards will cause harm.
Employers and self-employed people must carry out, or appoint a competent person to carry out a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment of the risks of fire to their employees and others who may be affected by their work or business.
Employers and the self employed are expected to take reasonable steps to help themselves identify fire risks, e.g. by looking at appropriate sources of information such as legislation, and codes of practice or by reference to a competent individual.
For small premises presenting a few hazards with common sense risk controls, within simple a fire risk assessment, can be a straightforward process.
For medium sized premises, such as those building with more than the ground floor, or having more than one staircase or multiple exits, the fire risk assessment will need to be more detailed. Some areas of the assessment may require specialist advice such as in a particularly complicated building.
Large and complex premises will require the most developed and sophisticated fire risk assessments particularly where fire engineering designs have been developed to overcome difficult fire safety issues. Any fire risk assessment should be suitable and sufficient in the opinion of the Fire Authority.
Fire risk assessments must also consider all those who might be affected by the undertaking whether they are employees or others such as contractors working on site or members of the public. Particularly attention should be given to those individuals who are especially vulnerable, such as young persons, the elderly or those with disabilities.
» I have a fire certificate...is that be enough?
Fire certificates held under The Fire Precautions Act 1971 were repealed by Fire Safety Order on the 1st October 2006 giving any Fire Certificate previously issued no legal status. However, much of the information and any plan drawings provided may be of assistance in completing the Fire Risk Assessment.
» Is the Assessment a one-off process?
No. The assessment must be regularly reviewed and amended as necessary to meet any changing circumstances identified. The Order states that the assessment should be "reviewed regularly and kept up to date...particularly if there is reason to suspect that it is no longer valid or there have been significant changes in the matters to which it relates" (Article 9 (3)).
However, no specific time scales are given. It is widely accepted that a review of the fire risk assessment is conducted at least every 12 months.
» What happens if I share my premises with others?
If you share a building with others, you will need to co-ordinate your risk management plan with them. If your plan changes as a result of a review or changes you made to your premises over time, you will need to share the revised risk management plan with others who share the premises.
» Will the Fire and Rescue Service inspect my premises?
Fire Authorities have the power to inspect your premises to check that you are complying with your duties under the Fire Safety 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, they may also wish to see a copy of the assessment.
» What happens if I don't comply with the Fire Safety Order, or conduct a Fire Risk Assessment?
For most premises, the Fire Authority are the enforcing authority for the Fire Safety Order. A fire safety inspecting officer will expect to see a copy of your Fire Risk Assessment when he/she audits your premises. Failure to comply with Articles 8-22 of the Fire Safety Order could result in an Enforcement Notice (Article 30), or a immediate Prohibition Notice (Article 31) being served, which in turn may result in Prosecution of the responsible person(s).
» Am I responsible if my fire safety equipment fails?
Under the Fire Safety Order all fire precautions must be maintained in efficient working order and good repair, so if any failure is due to lack of maintenance, then as the responsible person, you could be held responsible.
» Once I've carried out my fire risk assessment, who should I show it too?
You should consult with your employees about the findings of your fire risk assessment and provide adequate fire safety training for staff where identified. A fire safety inspecting officer, authorised by the Fire Authority, may ask to see your fire risk assessment, but there is no requirement to send it to them without request. Other relevant authorities such as Building Control Bodies, Environmental Health or Licensing Officers from the Local Authority may ask to see your fire risk assessment as part of their work or any respective Licensing process.
» Fire Routine
The basis of fire safety is the routine to be undertaken in the event of any fire. All staff should know how to react on discovery of fire or on hearing the premises fire alarm. It is essential that the management draw up an effective routine which covers all likely types of situation, from a fire alarm, to a major incident.
The fire routine needs to take into account the types of activities which take place in the premises, the fire precautions that are provided and above all, the fire warning system that is available to the premises. If not already written, the fire routine should be drawn up following the fire risk assessment of the premises.
The 'responsible person' is responsible for ensuring that all necessary fire safety features are available and in working order and that no undue fire risks are present. Fire incident experience over many decades has highlighted the importance of ensuring that fire exit doors can be easily and immediately opened, that exit routes are free from obstruction, are suitably lit and that any combustible waste has been removed.
» Fire Safety Training
A common cause of injuries sustained in fire incidents, is the failure of the occupants of a building, whether staff or members of the public, to take the appropriate action when fire is discovered or a fire alarm is raised. An essential part of the management's duties in respect of fire safety is the training of staff. All employees, including part time members, cleaning staff and contractors etc, should be familiar with the actions to be taken in the event of any fire or fire alarm, how to call the fire and rescue service, simple fire prevention and the exit routes provided.
Fire safety training should be a continuous aspect of their employment, commencing on the first day of appointment of any new staff and continuing in the form of regular refresher training. The training should based on written instructions appropriate to their specific responsibilities in the event of emergency and should be delivered by a competent person, with any course material and topics recorded as relevant in the fire safety log book.
Staff with specific duties in the event of fire, such as fire marshal or fire evacuation coordinator, should receive further detailed training suitable for their additional duties.
Fire instruction should be given to staff in respect of the following:
- Actions on discovering a fire
- Hearing the fire alarm
- Assembly points
- Calling the Fire and Rescue Service
- Awareness of portable fire equipment
» Actions on discovering a fire
Personnel should be made aware of the method of raising the alarm in a premises, this should include the position of manual fire alarm call points and their method of operation.
» Hearing the fire alarm
Personnel should be made aware of the evacuation procedures in their workplace. They should be shown escape routes and final exits, they should also be made aware of fire doors and their purpose in protecting escape routes.
» Fire assembly points
Personnel should be shown their 'Fire Assembly Point' and made aware of the need to ensure they have been accounted for.
» Calling the Fire and Rescue Service
Staff should be made aware of the method of calling the fire and rescue service and the location of telephones.
» Awareness of portable fire equipment
Personnel should be trained in the safe use of fire extinguishers. It is not acceptable to say 'employees are not expected to use an extinguisher and therefore they don't need to know'.
» What firefighting equipment do I need?
You have responsibility for the provision of appropriate firefighting equipment. It is also your responsibility to check that all firefighting equipment is located correctly and in effective working order.
» Testing and maintenance of fire safety equipment and systems
The maintenance of fire safety equipment and systems is one of management's most important responsibilities in any premises. There is a legal and moral obligation to maintain a satisfactory standard of all fire precautions provision, from the daily checking of the means of escape to the routine checking of portable fire fighting equipment. There is also a legal requirement imposed to provide and maintain accurate records on fire safety measures.
» Maintenance of Fire Safety Measures
All fire safety systems and equipment should be subject to a suitable and adequate programme of maintenance. This maintenance programme should be carried out in accordance with the relevant British Standard. This will normally involve much of the work being carried out by a 'competent person' (a person with the appropriate knowledge and training to carry out the task).
Many premises will be subject to specific maintenance requirements detailed in the legislation applying to that type of premises.
The Disability Discrimination Act introduced in 1995 sought to ensure that disabled employees, visitors, whatever their disability, should be treated as well as people without disabilities and according to their needs. It is therefore essential that disabled people are considered in any fire evacuation plan.