A number of incidents involving fire safety failings have hit the news recently, highlighting the importance of being fully compliant with fire safety regulations and having the correct procedures in place to both minimise the risk of fire and avoid costly fines.
In one instance the owners of a hotel were handed a £14,000 fine following an inspection at the property by Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service. It was found that emergency exits were sealed and closed, with one exit in need of complete replacement, whilst the outdoor fire escape staircase had deteriorated to a dangerous level.
In another recent incident a restaurant was fined a total of £15,000 and ordered to pay an additional £2,560 in costs after safety failings were discovered following a fire. Three diners were injured after dangerous vapours were ignited by an open fire. Inspectors later found that the restaurant’s practices were in breach of regulations around the storage of dangerous substances.
These incidents are an important reminder that anyone who has control over a building has duties under current fire safety legislation. They must take reasonable steps to reduce the likelihood of fire and to ensure that people can escape safely if a fire breaks out.
You need to be aware of your responsibilities for the fire safety of your business. If you are the owner or occupier of a commercial building you have legal obligations to protect it, your staff, visitors and the contents of the building.
As an employer:
- You are entitled to the co-operation of your employees in respect of your fire safety responsibilities and for employees to take reasonable care for their own safety and others whom their actions could affect.
- You must carry out (and review regularly) a fire safety risk assessment to identify the potential for fire to occur in the workplace and cause harm to employees and persons in, or in the immediate vicinity of, the premises.
- You must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the safety of your employees from harm caused by fire in the workplace and take reasonable measures to ensure their safety and that of others there, or in the immediate vicinity. These measures should be aimed at avoiding or reducing any risks identified.
- You must provide clear, appropriate information and instruction (and appropriate training) to your employees and anyone else working on your premises, e.g. contractors and their employer(s), in relation to any risks identified and fire safety measures provided.
- You must ensure that a record of a fire risk assessment is kept (electronically or paper-based) if you employ five or more employees (whether they are based in the premises or not); have a licence (such as a liquor licence) for the premises; are subject to registration (such as care home registration), or if an alterations notice requiring this has been served in relation to the premises by the enforcing authority.
- You must carry out (or review) a fire risk assessment before employing anyone under the age of 18, taking into account their youth and inexperience and the particular risks they may be exposed to in the workplace. If a child is of school age, their parent must be informed of the risks and the measures taken to avoid or reduce them.
- You must ensure that the premises are equipped to an appropriate level, with means of escape (ensuring these can be safely used), means of detecting fire and giving warning in the event of fire, means of fighting fires and arrangements for action to be taken in the event of fire.
- You must ensure that the premises and any fire safety facilities, equipment and devices are maintained in good order.
- You must co-operate with anyone else who has fire safety responsibilities for the same premises (including sharing information about the activities or measures undertaken, where appropriate) and take all reasonable steps to co-ordinate your fire safety measures regarding the premises.