All employers have a legal responsibility to protect their employees and clients against the risk of a fire outbreak under The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
Under this legislation, businesses are legally obligated to designate an assigned Responsible Person to manage all aspects of fire safety within the business.
The consequences for non-compliance with fire safety legislation are potentially serious and include penalties such as fines - and even prison sentences - for serious offences.
In the event of a fire, all occupants of the building must be evacuated in a quick and orderly manner to ensure the safety of staff and the public. As such, it is your legal duty as an employer to carry out a fire risk assessment and to ensure that a robust fire evacuation plan is put in place. This should be written by your business' designated Responsible Person.
You must also ensure that the appropriate fire safety protocols are enforced within the company.
Your Responsibilities Under The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005
Under The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety Order) 2005, the Responsible Person must carry out the following key duties, among others:
• Conduct and regularly review a fire risk assessment
• Create, establish, and enforce fire safety procedures within the organisation
• Create a fire safety plan for use in an emergency
• Issue regular fire safety training
• Educate your staff about the dangers that fire presents, and inform them of the prevention strategies and evacuation protocols you have in place
Assessing Fire Risk
The Responsible Person must carry out a fire risk assessment and regularly review risk as part of their duties under The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005; this is an essential step in limiting the chance of fire outbreaks.
This risk assessment should assess not only your premises, but also your high-risk business activities and any members of staff who may be vulnerable due to issues with mobility or communication.
Additionally, your evacuation protocol should be constructed in such a way that vulnerable persons are safeguarded effectively.
The UK government recommends following a five-step process when conducting a fire risk assessment:
• Identify fire hazards - This may include equipment such as air conditioning units, heaters, and waste incinerators, as well as hazards that may be dangerous in the event of a fire, such as overstocked products and blocked exits.
• Identify at-risk persons such as the elderly, or those with extra mobility and/or communication needs. This also includes members of staff working in hazardous conditions, such as an office with no access to a fire escape.
• Make changes to reduce fire risks, such as replacing flammable items with non-flammable alternatives, and ensuring easy access to fire extinguishers.
• Plan your fire safety protocol in detail and deliver regular fire safety training; any fire safety issues or risk assessments should be accurately recorded and kept up to date.
• Regularly review risk assessments and inform members of staff of any updates.
Furthermore, if your business employs over five people, you are legally obliged to keep your fire risk assessment in writing.
Under UK law, employers must take the following steps to reduce the risk of a fire on their property:
• The premises must be equipped with a fire detector and alarm system that can be heard from all areas and by all occupants of the building.
Persons who may not be able to perceive an alarm - such as those with a hearing impairment - must be provided with a plan that meets their safety requirements.
• As a minimum, there must be one fire extinguisher per 200m² of floor space, on every level of the building.
• Fire safety doors must be operated easily without the use of a key, and push pads should be considered if the building is regularly accessed by the public, or those with limited mobility.
• Fire doors must be easy to open, and should be clearly identifiable using an illuminated sign.
• Emergency lighting and other additional safety features should be considered in large properties.
• Fire escape routes must be kept short, and all occupants must be made aware of the escape routes in all areas of the building.
To be compliant with the relevant legislation, your fire safety plan must evidence that all these aspects are in place.
Fire Drills And Training
All premises must be equipped with a fire detector and warning system. The type of detector your business needs will differ according to your building structure and layout, and to the activities taking place on the premises.
Government guidance also states that employers must regularly check the following:
• That your fire detectors and alarm systems function as intended
• That your emergency lighting works correctly
• That escape routes are kept clear and free from trip hazards
• That fire escape doors are easily opened
• That automatic fire doors close properly
• That fire exit signs are easily visible and placed in an appropriate location
• That any identified faults or vulnerabilities in your fire safety equipment and/or systems are appropriately documented
At least one fire drill must be carried out annually to ensure that staff are familiar with your evacuation procedures, and that any problems with existing protocols are identified and managed.
In addition, all new members of staff must be given training in fire safety procedures, and every member of your personnel should be given updates about any new or pre-existing fire risks.
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