Under fire safety law, employers, owners, landlords, occupiers or anyone else with control of non-domestic premises is responsible for meeting fire safety requirements.
Legislation requires responsible persons to undertake a number of actions aimed at increasing fire safety at their premises. Under existing legislation, non-domestic premises include all workplaces and commercial properties, all premises with public access and all common areas of multi-occupied residential buildings.
What are fire safety responsibilities?
Building owners, landlords or occupiers must:
- Appoint a responsible person to carry out fire risk assessments
- Carry out and regularly review fire risk assessments
- Keep staff or tenants aware of the risks identified and provide these individuals with information, fire safety instruction and training
- Enforce and maintain necessary fire safety measures and make sure that emergency procedures are put in place.
- Losses from fire damage can be substantial, making fire risk an essential part of wider risk management strategies. Failure to comply with the legislation can lead to a variety of penalties.
How can obligations be met?
While England & Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland all have their own legislation on fire safety, and differing titles for the responsible person, the principles and responsibilities of these are largely the same.
Fire risk assessors should have appropriate skills and training and, if possible, should also hold membership of an appropriate professional body. It is also important for an assessor to have knowledge of various areas of fire safety, including:
- Assessment of fire risks
- Appropriate knowledge of relevant building construction
- How fires might spread
- Behaviour of persons in a fire scenario
- Means of escape
- Protective and preventative fire safety systems
Conduct fire risk assessments
Assessments must have been conducted ahead of any premises being occupied, focusing on safety in case of fire, particularly for those deemed at special risk.
It is possible to conduct a fire risk assessment with the help of a standard fire risk assessment guide. However, those without the necessary expertise, should, if possible, appoint a professional risk assessor, or enlist a local fire and rescue authority for help and advice.
There are a number of important things to consider as part of the fire risk assessment:
- Provision of appropriate and up-to-date fire safety equipment
- Emergency routes, fire exits and fire evacuation plans
- Fire alarms, detection and warning systems
- Removal or safe storage of dangerous substances
- The needs of vulnerable people, including children, the elderly, or those with disabilities
Keep staff and tenants aware of fire risk
The nominated fire risk assessor must provide employees with easy-to-understand and relevant information on the risks highlighted by the fire risk assessments, while also establishing channels for contacting the emergency services.
In addition to providing basic information, fire risk assessors will also need to provide appropriate training (during work hours) about fire precautions in the workplace. This includes training new staff and keeping existing staff informed about any new fire risks.
Staff awareness can also be bolstered by fire drills, which should be carried out once per year and be used to inform fire safety and evacuation plans.
Landlords need to ensure that there is a comprehensive fire risk assessment that details fire safety provisions, usually conducted by a professional fire risk assessor. There is also an obligation to provide an emergency escape plan detailing the actions and evacuation procedure that residents need to follow in the event of a fire.
Enforcing and maintaining fire safety measures
Organisations can request visits from their local fire service to check that fire risk assessment and prevention measures meet the required standards.
Fire safety officers can help understanding and compliance with the rules, making sure that no further action needs to be taken. If safety measures are found to be lacking, an informal or formal notice can be issued, which could ultimately lead to penalties.