New Fire Safety Regulations – Make Sure Your Business Complies With the Law

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 came into effect in 2006 and affects the vast majority of UK businesses. If you are not sure whether it applies to you or not, be assured that it does, unless you work in a field, at home, offshore or down a hole. 

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This article will summarize the main effects of the Order, in terms of what duties and responsibilities it puts on business owners and managers. The Order places responsibility for the safety of people in the workplace very clearly with the person who owns or controls the premises. That person is referred to as the ‘Responsible Person’. In shared premises there can be more than one Responsible Person.  

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Fire Risk Assessment

This is the cornerstone of the Regulatory Reform Order, and is a framework for assessing the fire safety controls of a workplace. The government recommend a structured five step process as follows:

  • Identify fire hazards
  • Identify people at risk
  • Evaluate the risks and minimise them
  • Record Your Findings
  • Review your Assessment regularly

Means of Escape

You have a responsibility to ensure that your workplace has adequate means of escape and that these are accessible and clear at all times. This includes provision of fire exit doors which open outwards (revolving doors are not acceptable). All fire doors should be properly maintained to ensure closers work properly, seals are effective, etc.

Safety Signs

It is also necessary to have proper safety signs in place, covering things like action to take in the event of a fire, location of fire fighting equipment and location and direction of emergency escape routes. Your escape routes and emergency exits must also have suitable emergency lighting, so that they are visible even in the event of a power failure.

Fire Detection and Alarm Systems

Your Fire Risk Assessment should tell you whether your fire detection and alarm system is adequate or not. No specific system is prescribed by the Regulatory Reform Order, as the system you use will depend very much on the nature of your premises. Large premises may have very sophisticated automatic systems, while a small business may just have a gong or Klaxon.

Fire Extinguishers

You have a duty to provide appropriate fire fighting equipment, usually portable fire extinguishers. There is also a duty to ensure that any such equipment is properly checked and maintained in good working order.

Staff Training and Instruction

The outcome of your Fire Risk Assessment must be communicated to your staff, and all staff have to receive training in fire safety procedures, including what action to take in the event of a fire. Additional training might be required for staff with additional duties, such as Fire Marshals.

Documentation and Written Procedures

The findings of your Risk Assessment must be recorded, unless you employ fewer than five people. You must also have a written Emergency Plan, covering action to take in an emergency.

You need to keep a record of staff training delivered, and the maintenance and testing of your fire safety equipment, such as emergency lighting and extinguishers.

What If I Don’t Comply?

Your local Fire Authority is the enforcement authority for this legislation. They have the power to inspect your workplace and paperwork and ask questions about the premises, procedures and who the Responsible Person is. Ultimately, if you do not comply, they can take you to court and you can be fined up to £5,000 or imprisoned for up to two years.

Conclusions

The Risk Assessment is the main change brought in by the Order, and pretty much everything else flows from that. All the Risk Assessment really does is give a practical structure to the work we should be doing anyway in the interests of protecting our staff and our businesses.

In reading through this summary of the Regulatory Reform Order, you will have been able to make some preliminary judgments about the extent to which your own premises are likely to meet these standards. Assuming your existing procedures are reasonably adequate, there is no reason why any of this should be a costly or time-consuming exercise. Unless you have a particularly complex workplace, you should be able to carry out your own Fire Risk Assessment.