As we shared in our recent article ‘3 Steps To Stay Safe AND Compliant’, we speak to a worryingly high number of companies who don’t understand what they’re required to do by law to meet their fire safety regulations. To help clear things up, we ask resident expert Annette Daniel to give us the ‘who, what, when, where, how’ on Commercial Fire Safety Regulations in the UK.
What am I required by law to do, as a business, to meet UK Fire Safety Regulations?
To start off with, before you do anything else, you need to arrange a fire risk assessment. That’s going to flag up exactly what you need. The fire risk assessor should go into a lot of detail, checking your premises, fire alarms, extinguishers, fire doors, the lot. Then they’ll put their recommendations into a report which will act like a to-do list for you to work through.
On the one hand, the report may not make any recommendations and you won’t need to do anything else at all. Doing the fire risk assessment could actually save you money and prevent you installing systems you don’t actually need. On the other hand, the fire risk assessment might recommend some measures you will have to put in place. These might include:
- Fire protection, such as fire extinguishers
- Fire safety signs, e.g. showing the nearest exit
- Fire alarm systems, such as smoke detectors
- Emergency lighting to help people find their way out
- Fire safety training and the appointment of fire marshals
Once you have your shiny new risk assessment, we can take care of some of those solutions, namely fire detection systems and emergency lighting, so all your requirements are covered. Another tool that can really help you and us is a drawing or map of your premises, to indicate what and where your fire system is now, and then we’ll look at where you need it to be. That way everyone can be clear on exactly what’s needed. A clear and easy-to-see drawing will also help with future risk assessments and health & safety checks for your company.
How do I go about getting a fire risk assessment?
Much as we’d love to help you, we aren’t able to do it for you – it’s a conflict of interest. It’s not right for us to recommend fire safety measures when we benefit financially from you installing them through us as well. For the same reason, we don’t like to recommend fire risk assessors either. Instead, we suggest you look on Google (other search engines are available) and shop around for a few quotes to compare prices. A top tip – try and find someone local. Aside from the fact that it’s nice to support local businesses, you also won’t have to pay extra for someone’s travel, so it’s more cost effective and better for the environment. Ensure you ask your risk assessor to categorise your fire system (L1, L2, L3, L4 etc.) – it’s always good practice to mention this to your risk assessor to ensure it gets done.
Don’t forget – this isn’t an area to scrimp on. A good quality fire risk assessment company will be thorough and provide a detailed report that can help ensure you are compliant, but most importantly, safe.
When do I need to do my fire risk assessment?
As a business, you are legally required to do a fire risk assessment every year. That’s right, every year. Why? Because without even noticing, business premises evolve and your current system may not keep up. Covid has forced change on almost every company. Offices may erect partition walls (or taken them down) to keep staff safe, which have meant smoke detectors don’t have the same range they need. Similarly, with far more employees working from home, your fire marshals who help in the event of an evacuation may no longer be on site. Fire safety regulations in the UK require a business to check their site every year.
Where can I check when we last had a fire risk assessment?
If you don’t know when your company last did a fire risk assessment, or what classification your premises were given as a result, you’re not alone. We speak to many people who, for one reason or another, can’t find this information. Every business is different, but common places to find the fire risk assessment is in your procedure files, your health and safety records, or actually next to the fire system itself with the maintenance record. Once you find the written report, you’ll see the date clearly on there.
Make sure you can find the fire risk assessment. Just like your car’s MOT and service record, it should be kept in a safe place. If a fire safety officer turns up for an unannounced inspection, you want to be able to put your hands on it quickly.
Why do I need to worry about this?
If you get an on-the-spot check from the fire safety officer and you don’t have an up-to-date fire risk assessment, you’ll probably get a warning and be told to sort it out ASAP. Furthermore, if there is a fire, and you don’t have one, the penalty could be much greater. Worse still, if someone is injured or killed in that fire, you could end up in court and facing prison. It’s just not worth the risk, to the people on your site or to your business.
Who should take care of it?
Every business is required to appoint a ‘responsible person’ to make sure the fire risk assessment is carried out each year and its recommendations are implemented. If you’re a one man band, then it’s over to you. If a director has given you the role, then you will be liable – you cannot blame your employer if you haven’t fulfilled the job as you were instructed.
We understand that fire safety might not be especially exciting or interesting, but it’s absolutely vital, and it is a legal requirement. If you want to have a chat about fire safety at your company, or you have recommendations from your fire risk assessment that we can help you with, please get in touch.