Fire Safety

Fire safety in the workplace is a key requirement of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005

We have stripped away the complexity of fire safety regulatory requirements and provided key information on what you need to know as the person responsible for fire safety arrangements within your premises.   Looking for information on fire risk assessments, fire wardens, emergency evacuation procedures, tenant responsibilities in a multi-occupancy building, etc; we’ve got you covered.

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Fire safety at work legislation

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (FSO) came into force in October 2006 and applies within England and Wales. It describes the fire safety duties of employers and others in control of non-domestic premises.  There are a number of duties placed on the responsible person (we’ll cover that term later), but the key areas are as follows:

  • fire prevention;
  • completion of a fire risk assessment (written where there are five or more employees);
  • fire safety arrangements to be introduced including the allocation of duties (written where there are five or more employees);
  • fire precautions to be implemented including a safe means of escape, means of raising the alarm, and provision of firefighting equipment;
  • emergency procedures, training, drills and the maintenance of equipment;
  • access to competent assistance either from within the organisation or as an external resource;
  • co-ordination with other duty holders.

Do I need a Fire Safety Certificate?

No, Fire Certificates are not issued anymore and are therefore no longer a legal requirement. However, if you have one, and your premises is still the same as that shown in the certificate drawings, use it as the basis for your fire risk assessment.

An old certificate is also useful evidence of the fire precautions which the Fire and Rescue Service (FRS) once felt were acceptable. In addition, the drawings will show the building’s design for fire compartmentation and could be useful to your fire risk assessor. So, if you have one, don’t throw it away.

Who is responsible for fire Safety?

The FSO introduced the role of “responsible person” (RP) within England and Wales. In simple terms, the RP is the organisation or individual who must ensure that everything happens as it should, i.e. a fire risk assessment is completed, and appropriate control measures are introduced. The RP is usually the employer but in the absence of an employer may be some other organisation or individual who has control over the premises. There can be more than one RP within a building, e.g. where there’s a shared premise.

Who is a competent person for fire safety?

Those with responsibilities for fire safety in the premises must “appoint one or more competent persons to assist”. So, who is a competent person and how do you know if you have appointed one? According to the legislation, the competent person must have “sufficient training, experience and knowledge.  You may need to appoint more than one competent person to cover the various duties, for example:

  • to undertake a risk assessment;
  • service the fire alarm and fire extinguishers;
  • act as fire marshal.

Typically, you may use a combination of staff and external contractors to fulfil the various areas in which assistance is needed.

What is the role of a fire marshal?

The guidance available to the fire safety legislation discusses the role of a fire marshal (also called fire wardens), and the need for these people to have more comprehensive training than other employees.  This training can be provided in-house or through an online fire marshal training course.  Whichever route of training that is chosen, and the size of your organisation the role of the fire marshal may include the following:

  • assisting with employees exiting the building;
  • checking agreed areas to ensure they are clear of all personnel;
  • checking that all personnel are accounted for;
  • if safe to do so, using fire-fighting equipment;
  • being the point of contact for the fire and rescue service;
  • if applicable, shutting down processes or equipment;
  • providing a managerial/supervisory role in the event of a fire.

So, what about employees’ duties?

The main duties of employees under the FSO are as follows:

  • to take reasonable care of themselves and others who may be affected by what they do or fail to do at work;
  • to co-operate with the employer to enable compliance with fire safety duties; and
  • to inform the employer of any shortcomings or immediate danger to safety.

Note: – Employee refresher training will help reinforce their responsibilities. It’s good practice to go through your fire procedure etc. on an annual basis. Reiterate their duties and make sure that they understand their responsibilities for fire prevention, the emergency procedures and safety rules, e.g. control of smoking materials. You should also update staff on any changes that you have made to your procedures.  Keep formal records of all training. An inspector is likely to ask to see it if they visit.  Ensure that all staff have undertaken a fire safety awareness training course.

Who is responsible for completing a fire risk assessment?

This is the key duty of the responsible person as detailed in the FSO.  The responsible person within a multi-occupied building could be the landlord for communal areas and the tenant for their demised areas.  Have a look at our dedicated page covering the fire risk assessment process

What fire safety documents and records should I have?

The key with fire safety is to evidence sufficient documents to show that you are complying with your duties as the responsible person.  Either your insurance company or a visiting inspector may ask to see certain documentation.  The following are key documents that you should have in place.

Fire safety arrangements

If you have five or more employees, there’s a legal requirement to write down your fire safety arrangements. You may decide to call this your fire safety policy. This document should outline the roles and responsibilities which have been allocated so as to assess the risks and ensure fire safety on the premises. It should explain what fire safety systems are installed and how they are maintained. It should also describe monitoring arrangements, e.g. routine inspections, tests, training and drills and should state the frequency at which planned reviews will take place (of the arrangements and risk assessment).

Emergency evacuation procedures

Your evacuation procedure may be included in your fire safety arrangements document or may be detailed separately. For very small premises, the fire action notice may be all that is appropriate in terms of a written emergency procedure. In most cases it is advisable to write a more detailed procedure which can be used as part of staff instruction.  This document should include as a minimum:

  • how an emergency is triggered;
  • when and how people are evacuated;
  • who co-ordinates at the assembly point;
  • how the fire and rescue service is called; and,
  • how/when occupants are readmitted into the building.

The procedure should also define the roles of the fire marshals/wardens and the person in charge.

Fire risk assessment

If you have five or more employees, there’s a legal requirement to write down your fire risk assessment. This should be regularly reviewed to ensure it is still current. It is advisable to keep any notes relating to the assessment. The action plan arising from the risk assessment should be annotated to show when and by whom the actions were completed.

 If you have less than five employees you still have to carry out a fire risk assessment, the law just says that you don’t have to write it down.  It’s always a good idea to show what you have done (in terms of documentation) to mitigate risks and therefore where possible write everything down.  For more detailed information on fire risk assessment in the workplace go here.

Fire plan

It is recommended that you create a scale drawing showing any specific fire hazards, isolation points for fuels, fire precautions and fire alarm zones. Such a drawing can be especially useful for those who are less familiar with the building, such as temporary staff and the fire and rescue service.  Adapt the above to the complexity of your premises

Maintenance and testing records

You are strongly advised to keep records of all maintenance and testing of fire safety equipment. Certificates for the installation and maintenance of fire safety equipment should be kept as proof that you have acted responsibly. Key records that should be available would include:

  • Fire alarms
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Emergency lighting
  • Firefighting equipment (e.g. Breathing apparatus if applicable)

Also, if you have equipment that could potentially be a fire hazard, keep records of the installation and maintenance to prove that you are reducing all possible risks.  Ensure that your records are easily retrievable and up to date.

Training records

The FSO places a duty on you, as an employer, to train all employees and any other occupants of your premises, so that they know the actions to be taken in the event of a fire and also any fire safety rules.  Keeping a record of the training you have given, and who you have given it to, is good evidence of how you have complied with your duties. You should also keep records of fire drills.

We have a range of online fire safety courses that might be of benefit to your organisation.  Have a look at our basis fire safety awareness training page and from here you can navigate to all the other training pages.

Howlett Health & Safety Services provides expert advice on fire procedures in the workplace.

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07875 535 558