fire safety measures

With businesses in the process of reopening across the UK, a lot of effort will be going into ensuring they’re as covid safe as possible. But there is real concern that might mean they’re not giving fire safety the level of attention it needs. BAFE (the independent registration body for third-party certificated fire safety service providers across the UK) highlighted recently how vital it is that businesses make sure all fire safety measures are assessed to check they remain fit for purpose. It’s highlighted a number of areas where businesses and organisations could have fallen behind on their approaches to fire safety and is stressing the need to review all fire safety measures promptly.

What steps should businesses take?

So what are some of the key steps that businesses need to complete? The starting point should be a review of fire risk assessments to determine whether fire precautions and processes are still sufficient. Businesses need to make sure that fire risk assessments reflect any changes that have been made, such as layout alterations to accommodate social distancing. BAFE points out that the absence of key employees due to furlough could mean that certain fire safety activities haven’t been completed.  Any staff changes that took place during lockdown should be reviewed too in case someone with fire safety responsibilities has moved on, and those responsibilities now need to be taken on by somebody else.

Businesses must also establish whether all fire prevention and detection equipment is working correctly and make sure it is suitable for the risk. They must ensure that all necessary checks have been completed, both the routine visual inspections that would usually have been carried out on a regular basis, along with any servicing and maintenance that should have taken place. Businesses must also be confident that everyone who works within the premises knows what to do if there was a fire-related emergency. They should prioritise carrying out fire drills so everyone knows how to evacuate the building quickly.  It’s important to identify any refresher training that’s needed, whether in connection with conducting evacuations or any other fire safety-related activity, and complete it as soon as practicable, updating records accordingly.

The onus is firmly on the responsible person to ensure they are using competent providers; the BAFE article highlights the value of ensuring that anyone used to carry out fire safety work is third-party certificated. The same sentiment was expressed last year by the Fire Industry Association and the National Security Inspectorate. They joined forces to promote its importance, pointing out that the person responsible for fire safety measures must always verify that the certification applies to the specific work that needs doing.

Fire safety law is set to become even tighter with the introduction of unlimited fines

The BAFE article reinforces the point that there have been no changes to fire safety law to reduce obligations on business owners. In fact, fire safety legislation is heading in the opposite direction; in the middle of March the Home Office announced that building owners could face unlimited fines as part of the new measures coming into force in the Building Safety Bill. These fines could potentially be incurred by anyone who breaches fire safety regulations under the Fire Safety Order or who obstructs or impersonates a fire inspector. With new requirements set to be introduced for recording fire risk assessments for each building, and an improved fire safety information handover during a building’s lifetime, it’s clear the expectation is that more, rather than less, will be required going forward in terms of fire safety.

Make sure your business is complying with fire safety requirements

If you don’t take the necessary steps to ensure your business is fire safe, you’re putting it at risk along with your employees and visitors and anyone else who comes to your premises. If you need support with any aspect of reducing fire risk, please contact us today.