Are you aware of your responsibilities within fire safety for your company? If you are the owner or occupier of a non-domestic building you have legal obligations to uphold to protect your staff, visitors, its contents and the building itself.
These legal obligations across the UK require the appointed responsible person (duty holder in Scotland) for non-domestic premises to have adequate fire protection. It is their responsibility to ensure there is a sufficient, up to date fire risk assessment and that all requirements addressed in this are carried out competently.
This responsible person if not appointed becomes the employer/the person who controls the premises by default in the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRO 2005). If you are unsure on who controls your premises this needs to be addressed to ensure you are not under any risk from fire and to establish who holds responsibility.
“Duty to take general fire precautions
8.—(1) The responsible person must
(a) take such general fire precautions as will ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the safety of any of his employees; and
(b) in relation to relevant persons who are not his employees, take such general fire precautions as may reasonably be required in the circumstances of the case to ensure that the premises are safe.”
- The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, Part 2 – Article 8
Where do I begin with my fire safety policy? - Fire Risk Assessment
As listed in Article 9, ‘The responsible person must make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to which relevant persons are exposed for the purpose of identifying the general fire precautions he needs to take to comply with the requirements and prohibitions imposed on him by or under this Order.’ This fire risk assessment will recognise precautions already in place and also actions needed. These findings must be recorded and kept (if you employ 5 or more people) and must be regularly reviewed. This must also be revisited if the building/rooms change use to ensure provisions in place for fire safety are still appropriate.
Within current legislation, anybody can provide a fire risk assessment and you are permitted to provide your own company assessment if you feel confident you can fulfil this. However, you can only identify risks you are aware of and how can you be sure you have provided an appropriate assessment according to the law? If the assessment is thought to have been carried out to an insufficient extent, the responsible person can face an unlimited fine or up to two years in prison.
Fire Extinguishers, Fire Detection and Alarms
In Article 13 the RRO 2005 states that ‘the premises are, to the extent that it is appropriate, equipped with appropriate fire-fighting equipment and with fire detectors and alarms.'
Emergency Routes and Exits
Article 14 of the RRO 2005 discusses emergency exits. ‘Emergency routes and exits requiring illumination must be provided with emergency lighting of adequate intensity in the case of failure of their normal lighting.’
Just as important as getting these systems for your fire safety policy in place is to ensure they ‘are subject to a suitable system of maintenance and are maintained in an efficient state, in efficient working order and in good repair’ (Article 17). Implemented fire protection systems are not switched on and off every day like security detection, but you have to be confident it will work at any time, immediately and that it meets the needs of your premises.