New fire safety regulations are set to come into force this October, but how will they affect your business?
In 2004 (England and Wales) fire and rescue services attended over 33,400 fires in non-domestic buildings. These fires killed 38 people and injured over 1,300!
Fire also costs money. The cost of a fire can be high and afterwards many businesses do not reopen. In 2004, the costs as a consequence of fire, including property damage, human casualties and lost business, were estimated at £2.5 billion.
Fire Safety Law
The new legislation effective from 1st October 2006 requires employers and others responsible for buildings to comply with the new Fire Safety Law. Previously it was the responsibility of the Fire Authority to ensure compliance with fire safety law and this was managed via local fire brigades.
Publication of “Fire Safety – An Employers Guide” by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in 1999 stated the advent of a new employer-led approach towards fire safety at work in the UK. This was necessary to bring the UK in line with European Union directives.
New reforms will see a much greater need for employers to comply with fire protection law. The new law means that employers will need to produce fire risk assessments and introduce action plans to minimise the risk from fire and the consequences should one arise.
So the new law will;
- emphasise preventing fires and reducing risk
- make it your responsibility to ensure the safety of everyone who uses your premises and in the immediate vicinity
- do away with the need for fire certificates
The importance of your responsibilities should not be under estimated.
Does this affect me?
If you manage, own or are the responsible person for offices, shops, factories, hospitals, hotels, care homes, places of assembly and so on, the answer is almost certainly yes! In fact the Fire Precautions (Workplace) Regulations cover all premises that people have access to except for single domestic premises.
What do I need to do?
As an employer or responsible person you must carry out a fire risk assessment which is required to focus on the safety of all relevant persons in the case of fire. The assessment should pay attention to those at special risk, such as disabled people, those with special needs, young persons and must include consideration for any dangerous substances. The fire risk assessment will help you to identify risks that can be removed or reduced and help you to decide the extent of the general fire precautions you need to take.
If the organization or business employs five or more people you must record the significant findings of the assessment. Regardless of the number of employees it is good practice to record your significant findings.
So what is a fire risk assessment?
A fire risk assessment is an organized and methodical review of your premises, what activities are carried out and the likelihood that a fire could start.
The aims of the fire risk assessment are:
- to identify any fire hazards
- to reduce the risk of those hazards causing harm
- to decide what physical fire precautions and management arrangements are required to ensure the safety of people in your premises should a fire start
Your assessment will consider “what if” scenarios and consider such key components as:
- sources of ignition
- sources of fuel
- sources of oxygen (air)
- persons at risk
- means of escape
- fire detection and warning
- means of fighting fire
- emergency planning
Your fire risk assessment should clearly demonstrate that, as far as is practicable and reasonable you have considered the needs of all relevant persons. Whilst it is possible for a simple fire risk assessment to be completed by the responsible person, in the real world employers have other things to think about, like earning a living.
All this may seem daunting however there is help available, there are service providers who are able to supply you with a fire risk assessment as required by this new legislation.
You have the option of completing your risk assessment online via the Internet or by contacting local service providers who will attend your premises and complete a survey of the facilities. Your local fire services are always available to offer advice.