If there can be one good thing to come out of the awful tragedy at Grenfell Tower in London, it is that it has brought fire safety sharply into focus for the entire nation.
It is clear that those responsible for complying with fire safety legislation can no longer be allowed to prioritise cost savings over human life.
If your business operates from commercial premises, whether leased or owned, it’s worth reminding yourself of your legal responsibilities.
Fire Safety and the law
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 places a duty on the person responsible for non-domestic premises to:
- carry out a fire risk assessment of the premises and review it regularly;
- tell staff or their representatives about any identified risks and take steps to address issues such as electrical hazards and the presence of excessive amounts of combustible materials;
- put in place, and maintain, appropriate fire safety measures;
- plan for an emergency;
- provide staff information, fire safety instruction and training.
Which premises does the law apply to?
The legislation affects all non-domestic premises. This includes all industrial, commercial or public buildings, such as factories, warehouses, offices, shops, pubs, hotels, restaurants, care homes and nurseries.
The legislation also covers common areas of multi-occupied residential buildings and buildings visited by paying guests, for example, bed and breakfast establishments and self-catering properties.
Who has the duty to comply?
The duty to comply with the legislation lies with the person or organisation which is the owner, landlord or occupier of business or other non-domestic premises, or in the case of a workplace, the employer. This is usually evidenced by means of an explicit agreement, such as a tenancy agreement or a contract.
In premises with multiple occupants, that duty may be a shared one, in which case the relevant parties will need to co-ordinate fire safety plans. In circumstances where the premises contain common or shared areas, the responsible person is the landlord, freeholder or managing agent.
What you should do if you are the responsible person
As the responsible person of relevant commercial premises you must:
- carry out and regularly review and update a fire risk assessment of the premises identifying what you need to do to prevent fire and keep people safe. For businesses of 5 or more people, you must maintain a written record of the fire risk assessment. The assessment must include an emergency plan that details fire exits and evacuation routes, location of firefighting equipment and safe meeting point, and provisions for fire safety training and the needs of vulnerable people who may work at or visit the premises, including those who have mobility issues;
- Install and maintain an appropriate fire detection and warning system;
- Ensure that firefighting equipment is properly installed and regularly tested and maintained;
- Carry out at least one fire drill each year and record the results.
If you don’t have the necessary knowledge or time to conduct your own fire risk assessment, you’ll need to call upon a professional risk assessor (see below).
What happens if you don’t comply with fire safety legislation?
Failure to comply with the provisions of the Fire Safety Order could result in you being issued with a formal fire safety notice following an inspection by your local fire and rescue authority.
You will be given a deadline for correcting failures or, if your premises are deemed unsafe, may even have access to your business prohibited. There is also the possibility of incurring an unlimited fine and up to 2 years in jail.
The Fire Protection Authority (FPA) is the UK’s national fire safety organisation and has extensive experience of delivering a range of fire consulting services and fire risk assessments across a variety of sectors and buildings.
Go to www.thefpa.co.uk for further information or to request advice and guidance about your commercial premises.
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If you’re looking to buy or sell a business, fire safety at related commercial premises will be one of the areas subject to thorough scrutiny as part of the pre-contract enquiries and we can help guide you through this process.
Our full contact details can be found on our Contact Us page.
We look forward to hearing from you.