In 1997, the Fire Precautions (Workplace) Regulations were introduced requiring business that did not need a fire certificate to conduct a fire risk assessment. These regulations broadly bought UK legislation into line with much of Europe.
Then in December 1999, the Fire Precautions Regulations were amended. The amendment broadened the scope of the legislation to include businesses that had a fire certificate.
The legislation was again amended on 1st October 2006, and replaced with one common piece of regulation - The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
The aim is to simplify, rationalise and consolidate the previous legislation. It provides for a risk-based approach to fire safety allowing more efficient effective enforcement by the fire and rescue service.
Does the order apply to my business?
If you are an employer, self employed (with business premises), a voluntary organisation or have control over any premises (such as the managing agent of a residential freehold building), the fire regulations do apply to you. What it means is that:
If you employ five or more people, own licensed premises or have an alterations notice in force, you must keep a hard copy of your fire risk assessment present on the premises and available for inspection at all times.
As an employer you are directly responsible for ensuring that you comply with these regulations.
From October 1st 2006, fire certificates will no longer be valid, and the enforcement of the new regulations is likely to become more comprehensive.
You may have received the government 'Fire Safety Law' brochure. This provides a checklist of all the things you need to do. Simply ticking the boxes without follow up action will not ensure that you are compliant with the legislation.
What has changed?
Fire certificates are no longer be valid, and cccupiers of premises designated under the Fire Precautions Act 1971 are no longer need to apply for one.
A fire risk assessment is the primary method to manage fire risk in the workplace.
A responsible person (designated by the employer or the person in charge) is required to ensure that a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment is on site. The new fire legislation requires the responsible person to take account of the impact that a fire might have to surrounding premises and persons. This includes the safety of fire fighters should they need to enter the premises.
Note that a fire risk assessment was already required in line with the Fire Precautions (Workplace) Regulations 1999. However, the new fire regulations have been enforced more vigorously by the UK Fire & Rescue Service.
Fire risk assessment
Every business owner and employer must:
- assess the fire risk in their workplace (perhaps in conjunction with other health and safety risk assessment exercises)
- check that fires can be detected and people can be warned in enough time to leave the building safely
- check that there is a safe means for leaving the building
- provide and maintain fire fighting equipment
- instruct their employees on what to do in event of a fire
Possible fire risks in your workplace
Look at all areas of your business in order to carry out an assessment.
If you employ five or more people you will need to keep a written record of the risk assessment.
The kinds of areas you will need to look at when carrying out your assessment are:
- flammable liquids
- heating and lighting
- detection of fire
- fire fighting equipment
- means of escape
- emergency plans
How do I know if I am compliant?
A fire risk assessment and policy is a written document and is substantially more than just a record of fire extinguisher testing.
A copy must be available on site for inspection at all times. To help you identify if you have a fire risk assessment in place, consider whether you have a document at your premises that deals specifically with fire safety issues and whether it has a section designated to significant findings.
These are the risks that have been identified by your designated responsible person. Each risk should be accompanied with notes of remedial action that you have taken to reduce it. The document should also include a section designated to means of escape.
Unless documented as above it is unlikely that your insurance company or fire extinguisher maintenance company will have conducted a fire risk assessment.