Fire is a major risk in almost every workplace in the UK. Each year there are more than 20,000 fires that occur in buildings used for commercial or industrial purposes, according to government data.
These fires are caused by faulty equipment, improper storage of waste and human error. A common theme is that many of these incidents could have been avoided, if correct fire safety practices were followed
Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order 2005 is important legislation designed to ensure you do just that. The aim of the fire safety regulations is to prevent a fire from starting or reduce the possibility of fire. If a fire does occur, this key legislation provides guidelines on how to contain it.
In this article, we will outline the requirements of the Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order 2005 and detail what you need to do to keep your workplace fire safe.
Fire Safety Order 2005 & the Fire Safety Bill 2021
This legislation replaced previous UK fire safety legislation. It simplified and clarified the rules relating to fire safety in the workplace. Under the Fire Safety Order 2005, any person who has a level of control in a workplace has to take reasonable steps to reduce fire risks. They must also ensure there are easily accessible fire escape routes on the premises.
The Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order 2005 was amended by the Fire Safety Bill 2021. This Bill provided further clarification regarding the persons responsible for fire risks in multi-occupied buildings.
Where do the Fire Safety Regulations Apply?
The Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order 2005 applies to almost all business premises, structures and open spaces across the UK.
The Fire Safety Order 2005 can be applied to:
- Retail shops
- Care homes and hospitals
- Community halls and places of religious worship
- Pubs, clubs and restaurants
- Sports centres
- Tents and marquees
- Hotels and hostels
The Fire Safety Regulations UK are not applicable to private homes and individual flats. There is no specific legislation for domestic residences. However, the new Building Safety Bill does address high-risk domestic buildings.
What Must I Do to Comply with Fire Safety Regulations in the UK?
To comply with fire safety regulations in the UK, a person who has authority in a workplace, referred to as the ‘responsible person’ in the legislation, and must perform regular fire risk assessments to identify any risks or fire hazards. This person must also identify all people who would be at risk if a fire broke out. Once this has been done, the responsible person should eliminate or reduce the fire risks ‘as far as is reasonably practicable’.
General fire precautions must be initiated to remove any remaining risks. If flammable or explosive materials are used or stored on-site, they must be kept and used safely. The responsible person must work with other stakeholders to formulate an emergency fire plan. A record of the risk assessment and the fire plan must be kept and reviewed when necessary.
Who is Considered a Responsible Person Under Fire Safety Regulations?
A ‘responsible person’ under this legislation is defined as ‘anyone who has control of premises or anyone who has a degree of control over certain areas or systems’.
This may be the employer, a managing agent, a self-employed person, a member of a voluntary organisation or anyone else who has a degree of control over the premises or a part thereof. Often, the responsibilities are shared among several people.
The responsible person is responsible for ensuring and maintaining the right fire safety procedures. This may include conducting fire risk assesments, implementing preventive measures, providing training, and complying with the legislation.
Your Duties Under Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order 2005
The responsible person may delegate the fire risk assessment to a competent person. It should be noted, however, that the legal responsibility still lies with the responsible person.
The responsible person must also ensure:
- All people on or near the premises have access to a fire escape route ‘as far as is reasonably practicable’ – This point differs from previous legislation in that it requires the responsible person to consider all people on or near the premises
- Make special consideration to any persons with special needs, for example, those with disabilities or the elderly. Manage all fire risks
The order says that you must manage any fire-risk in your premises and fire authorities have stopped issuing fire certificates. Any previous certificates are now deemed as invalid with no legal status. However, previous fire certificates can be used as a guideline for a fire risk assessment.
Most modern buildings will meet current regulations and should have adequate structural fire precautions. Responsible persons will still need to maintain fire precautions and perform regular fire risk assessments.
Who is the Agency Responsible for Enforcement?
Local fire authorities are responsible for enforcing fire-safety legislation in all non-domestic buildings throughout the UK.
Any building that is deemed as high risk will be targeted for inspections. Fire authorities investigate any complaints made about the fire safety of a building and carry out inspections after a fire has occurred.
If breaches in Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order 2005 are discovered, instructions may be provided on how to comply with the Order. In serious cases, formal notices may be issued.
Generally, fire safety authorities will work with responsible persons to achieve optimal levels of fire safety.
Enforcement of Fire Regulations
Fire authorities can issue a notice that prevents a place of business from being used if they deem there is a serious, life-threatening fire risk.
Owners of business properties do have the right of appeal if such a notice is issued. This can be done both informally and formally. An informal appeal can be made to a fire safety manager and may result in different practices being applied to meet the fire safety regulations. In the case that this does not succeed, a formal appeal can be made to a magistrate.
The enforcing authority and the responsible person can also request a formal decision from the Secretary of State that may provide clarification on technical issues surrounding compliance issues.
Generally, a business owner will be able to move premises while in breach of the Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order 2005. They will still be held responsible for any fire risks and need to ensure the planning process and building regulations are followed.
If the fire authorities deem that you are not following Fire Safety Order 2005, you should review your fire risk assessment to evaluate the risk posed by any requested changes.
Current risk management procedures and precautions should also be re-evaluated. In certain high-risk cases where there is a serious risk to life, fire authorities can issue an alteration notice. This will require the business owner to inform the fire authorities of any planned changes to the premises that significantly increase the risk of fire.
Where to learn more about the Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order 2005
The Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order 2005 was designed to provide guidelines to help keep business premises safe from the risk of fire. Following these fire safety regulations is also a legal obligation. Failure to do so can result in the fire authorities closing your business and in serious cases may result in significant fines or even a prison sentence.
One of the best ways to ensure that your place of business is compliant with the Fire Safety Order 2005 is to complete fire safety training. Human Focus provides a range of fire safety courses designed to provide people with the skills to assess and manage fire risks in the workplace. These courses are available online and are assured by the International Institute of Risk & Safety Management (IIRSM) and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA).