Fire safety – what businesses need to know
All commercial premises in England need to comply with fire safety regulations which require them to minimise the risk in workplaces, carry out assessments and put precautions in place.
Failure to follow these regulations can result in a fine – minor penalties are up to £5,000 and major ones are unlimited – or even a prison sentence.
The person responsible for implementing fire safety compliance could be the employer or business owner, or someone else in control of the premises such as the managing agent or facilities manager. There may even be a number of responsible people who work together to ensure the business complies with fire regulations.
Whoever is responsible has to undertake a number of things. They must carry out a risk assessment, identifying anything that could cause a fire, such as a source of heat or a substance that could burn. This would also include identifying people at risk.
They must then inform staff about the risks they’ve identified and implement fire safety measures. This includes removing or reducing risks such as dangerous substances or unsafely stored items. Even simple things could greatly reduce a fire risk, such as ensuring that flammable rubbish like boxes or paper is removed or kept apart from a source of ignition.
As well as taking preventative action, the person responsible for fire safety also needs to think about precautionary measures which will protect people should a fire occur. An emergency plan must be drawn up, and staff given information and training about fire prevention and what to do in the event of a fire. Things to be highlighted include emergency passageways and exits (which must be kept clear at all times), alarm systems, fire extinguishing equipment and a safe meeting point. Provision needs to be made for anyone who has mobility needs.
The risk assessment must be reviewed on a regular basis so that it continues to be relevant to the business in keeping people safe and preventing fire. Businesses with five or more people must have a written record of their fire risk assessment.
The local fire authority can be asked to inspect the premises. Although they can’t actually carry out risk assessments, they can offer advice about the steps a business should take to comply with fire safety regulations.
All businesses are required to have fire detection and alarm systems which, by law, must be serviced at least every six months. Alarms must be properly installed, tested and maintained, and comply with BS 5839-1:2002 + A2:2008. Maintenance and testing of the fire alarm system can be carried out by certified and trained electricians.