Fire safety law and guidance for business
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 came into effect in October 2006 and replaced over 70 pieces of fire safety law.
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 applies to all non-domestic premises in England and Wales, including the common parts of blocks of flats and houses in multiple occupation (HMOs). The law applies to you if you are:
- responsible for business premises
- an employer or self-employed with business premises
- responsible for a part of a dwelling where that part is solely used for business purposes
- a charity or voluntary organisation
- a contractor with a degree of control over any premises
- providing accommodation for paying guests
Under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, the responsible person must carry out a fire safety risk assessment and implement and maintain a fire management plan.
Who is responsible for fire safety?
Typically the employer, owner or occupier of the premises is responsible for fire safety. In law, they are known as the ‘responsible person’.
All workplaces, commercial premises and other buildings to which the public have access must have a fire safety risk assessment carried out. The responsible person must carry out or arrange for a risk assessment of the premises. They must also implement and maintain appropriate and adequate fire safety measures to minimise the risk to life from fire.
In the case of blocks of flats and houses of multiple occupation, the fire safety legislation applies to common or shared parts. In these cases the responsible person is usually the landlord, freeholder or managing agent.
If you haven’t done so already, you should establish who the responsible person is within your business or premises.
In shared premises, there are likely to be a number of people – including the owner and the employers within the building – with responsibilities under the fire safety legislation. Where this is the case, they are expected to:
- co-operate with each other
- co-ordinate with fire safety measures
- share information with each other to ensure the safety of those on or in the vicinity of the premises
Duties of the ‘responsible person’
The responsible person is someone who has the duty of carrying out or arranging a risk assessment of their premises. They must also implement and maintain appropriate and adequate fire safety measures to minimise the risk to life from fire.
If you are the responsible person you must make sure that fire risks are removed, reduced or managed to an acceptable level to reasonably protect lives. You must also ensure that everyone who may be in, or in the vicinity of, your premises can escape if there is a fire.
As part of the risk assessment you need to think about all the people who might be on your premises, including employees, visitors or members of the public. You need to pay particular attention to those who may need special help, such as elderly or disabled people or children.
- carry out a fire risk assessment and identify possible dangers and risks
- think about who might be particularly at risk – for example disabled employees, or people who work with hazardous chemicals
- remove or reduce the risk from fire, as far as reasonably possible
- put in place fire precautions to deal with any risks that remain
- make sure there is protection if you use or store flammable or explosive materials
- have a fire management plan to deal with emergencies including evacuation procedures, and appoint a suitable number of competent persons to help implement it
- record your findings – if five or more persons are employed – and review them regularly
You can appoint someone other than yourself – known as a ‘competent person’ – to carry out the risk assessment for you, but in law you remain responsible for complying with fire safety legislation.
In smaller and less complex premises you may be able to carry out the risk assessment yourself. You may need to get more complex premises assessed by a person who has comprehensive training or experience in fire risk assessment.
The main enforcers of fire safety legislation are your local Fire and Rescue Authority (FRA) who must be satisfied with your safety measures. If they are not satisfied, they will offer you advice on what you need to do.
If the FRA finds major deficiencies they can serve an enforcement notice requiring you to improve the measures in place to ensure there is a sufficient level of compliance on the premises. In carrying out their enforcement duties you can expect FRAs, wherever possible, to take a supportive and proportionate approach by helping and encouraging you to understand and meet regulatory requirements.