Some of the most vulnerable people in our society are housed in care homes. The residents in a care home have an increased risk of injury or death if there is a fire.
So, it’s impossible to overstress the importance of fire safety in care homes. This guide gives managers and workers crucial information on maintaining fire safety in care homes.
What Fire Safety Regulations Apply to Care Homes?
All care home managers and owners must know and abide by UK legislation about fire safety in care homes. These laws and regulations provide guidelines on how fire safety must be managed in a care home. There are two main pieces of legislation that cover fire safety regulations for all care homes in the UK:
In addition to the regulatory framework, there are several codes and standards that provide guidance on fire safety measures, such as the British Standard BS 9999 for fire safety in the design, management, and use of buildings, and the BS 5839 for fire detection and alarm systems.
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005
This is the primary piece of legislation overseeing fire safety in UK workplaces. The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 requires all employers to reduce or eliminate the fire risk as far as is reasonably practical.
This legislation stipulates that a ‘responsible person’ must ensure that the business premises comply with fire safety laws. The responsible person can be the owner of the business, the principal employer, or a manager or supervisor. Legally speaking, the employer is always responsible for ensuring they comply with fire safety regulations.
The Health and Social Care Act (2008)
The Health and Social Care Act (2008) replaced the Care Home Regulations Act (2001). This act provides specific guidelines on what owners and managers of care homes must do to keep their facilities safe. It also established the Care Quality Commission as the independent health and social care facility regulator. This separates care homes and healthcare facilities from other business premises in the UK. They are regulated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
The Importance of Fire Safety in Care Homes
The residents of care homes usually face various mobility issues connected to age, disability, illness, cognitive impairment or other health problems. Many residents need help to comply with or comprehend fire safety instructions. So, there’s an increased risk of loss of life for both residents and staff members. Evacuating a care home if a fire breaks out can be particularly difficult. Some of the most common fire risks in care homes are:
- Medical oxygen
- Kitchen equipment
- Electrical medical equipment
- Electrical appliances
- Obstructions to escape routes
- A build-up of files, clothing or other flammable materials
- Mobility scooters
- Medications and creams used by residents
Fire Safety in Care Homes – A Case Study
Cedric Skyers, 69, was wheelchair-bound after a stroke and lived in a care home operated by BUPA Care Services (ANS) Ltd. Tragically, Mr. Skyers died after he set his clothes on fire when he was smoking in an unsupervised area of the care home. His clothes were flammable from his paraffin-based emollient cream.
A court found that BUPA breached fire safety legislation because they failed to perform adequate risk assessments on Mr Skyers’ circumstances and failed to instruct staff and residents on the risks of paraffin-based products and smoking. In January 2022, BUPA was fined £937,500 and ordered to pay £104,000 in court costs. At the time of writing, this was the largest fine ever issued to a company for breaching fire safety regulations for care homes. (Source)
How to Ensure a Care Home Complies with Fire Safety Regulations
One of the best resources for the owners and managers of care homes is the Fire Safety Guidance Document for Care Homes. This is a 150-page guide on fire safety strategies for care homes that meet the requirements of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. The Fire Safety Guidance Document for Care Homes describes how to perform fire risk assessments, ensure proper fire precautions are in place and how to safely evacuate workers and residents should a fire break out.
To comply with fire safety regulations, managers and owners of care homes must ensure that all appropriate precautions are taken to eliminate or reduce the fire risk. They must make sure that:
- Fire safety policies are developed and distributed
- Annual fire risk assessments are conducted
- Appropriate firefighting equipment is kept on the premises
- All firefighting equipment is kept in good working order
- There are adequate escape routes
- Fire doors are kept closed and in good condition
- Fire alarms are installed and kept in good working order
- Flammable and hazardous substances are stored correctly
- Fire drills and evacuation drills are carried out regularly
- There are always designated fire wardens on the premises
- Staff are given adequate fire safety training
- Residents are trained in fire safety procedures
- There is an up-to-date fire safety log on the premises
- Fire authorities have been consulted regarding fire safety procedures
Further information can also be found in the Health Technical Memorandum (HTM) 05-03: Fire Safety in Healthcare Premises. It’s a document published by the UK Department of Health that provides advice and recommendations for fire safety in healthcare premises, including care homes.
Care home managers should consult with a qualified fire safety professional to ensure that they are meeting all of the relevant requirements and recommendations for fire safety in their facility.
Where to Find Fire Safety Training for Care Home Workers
There were 500 fires in care homes throughout the UK during the 2021 to 2022 period, according to recent government figures. Two people lost their lives and more than 125 people were injured.
There is the potential for loss of life with any fire in a care home. All staff employed in care homes must receive accredited fire safety training. Fire safety training will give them the skills to identify and control fire hazards. It also provides them with crucial knowledge on safely evacuating all residents, visitors and workers if a fire occurs.
Our Fire Awareness Training course teaches participants how to conduct risk assessments and develop fire safety procedures based on the outcomes. Trainees learn how to minimise the risk of fire, how to use firefighting equipment and develop evacuation strategies. This knowledge ensures that your care home complies with legislation and could save someone’s life during an emergency.