The greatest way to fight fires is by removing how they can start and spread. Any organisation has a legal responsibility to protect their employers, their businesses and the public around them.
Organisations need to ensure that adequate and appropriate fire safety procedures and measures are in place to minimise the risk of injury or loss of life in the event of a fire.
Fires require three elements to ignite:
- Sources of Ignition –These include naked flames, lighting, heaters, electrical equipment, matches and anything else that may get hot or cause sparks
- Sources of Fuel –These are any materials that can intensify a fire. Flammable substances such as propane, petrol or materials such as wood, paper, packaging materials, furniture and rubbish.
- Sources of Oxygen– including the air around us and pure oxygen
Businesses have various legal obligations to meet under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, along with more specific guidance for dangerous and flammable substances that could cause fire or explosion. This legislation covers fire safety in England and Wales, whereas it is covered by Part 3 of the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005, supported by the Fire Safety (Scotland) Regulations 2006.
We outline obligations covered in the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 below
Who Has Legal Responsibility?
A building owner, the employer, the landlord, an occupier in the case of a shared workspace for example, and anyone else who has control of the premises, such as building managers, managing agents, employed risk assessors and facilities managers will have responsibility for fire safety in business or other non-domestic premises.
Each of these is known as a ‘responsible person’ and are in charge of carrying out risk assessments and reviews, as well as telling staff of the risks, preparing appropriate safety measures and emergency planning, they may also provide training and fire safety information to other teams members to raise awareness.
This legislation applies for all workplaces, public buildings and common areas of a residential building.
Fire Safety Risk Assessment
A fire safety risk assessment is approached in the same way as a more general health and safety risk assessment and can either be undertaken separately or as part of a general risk assessment.
It is important to update your risk assessment updated on a frequent basis, to reflect changes in the business, risk levels, personnel, raw materials and storage of and operational procedures or any concerns related to fire risks that employees may have.
Effective Prevention and Detection
When it comes to actions to take after a risk assessment, these are likely to vary, but the initial focus will be on measures that have been taken to improve the detection of potential fires, and systems in place to avoid fires starting and spreading as well as ignition sources and people who may be at risk
Depending upon the size of your organisation, you may have a dedicated Fire warden or several employees acting in this capacity.
Primarily the Fire Warden’s role is to make sure the working environment is safe in case of a fire but is usually divided into two different elements, the proactive function of daily maintenance as well as the secondary reactive element during an alarm or confirmed fire. It may also comprise performing many duties of a fire risk assessment but is likely to vary depending upon the nature of the business.
Some other members of staff will also be encouraged to attend basic fire safety training, which may provide a basic insight into fire safety measures, how to use fire extinguishers and roles and responsibilities.
Regular fire drills help play a key role in familiarising your employees with the nearest fire exit, how to safely evacuate the building quickly as well as where their nearest assembly point is.
Employees can also play a key role in suggesting ideas or improvements in fire safety matters. This can be done via the Fire Marshal, senior management or via a member of the health and safety committee if your organisation has one.