As an employer, ensuring the safety of your employees and everyone else who visits your workplace should be at the top of your priority list. It’s reported that around 20,000 commercial fires take place in the UK every year and failure to have effective procedures in place can lead to injury, or even worse, fatalities.
It’s therefore absolutely essential that you comply with current fire regulations to reduce the risk of any disasters from occurring in your working environment.
UK fire safety legislation, however, can be slightly confusing to those not too experienced in the industry, so to help make things clearer, here we’ve produced a handy little guide explaining the UK’s current fire safety laws in simpler terms.
Who is Responsible for Fire Safety in the Workplace?
Every business and non-domestic property (workplaces, commercial properties, premises the public have access to etc.) in the UK is required to have a designated Responsible Person(s). This can be the employer, landlord or anyone else who has control of the premises, but it is their duty to make sure the correct actions are in place to prevent fires from occurring and prevent injuries or death if a fire does develop.
Some of their responsibilities include:
- Conducting a fire risk assessment of the property and reviewing it often.
- Communicating with employees the risks that the assessment identified.
- Making sure appropriate fire safety measures are put in place.
- Having a plan in place in case of an emergency.
- Providing staff with information, fire safety instruction and relevant training.
It is highly recommended that the Responsible Person attends a professional fire training course to help make sure they fully understand what is required of their business when it comes to fire safety. Here at Infinite Solutions, we specialise in providing industry recognised safety and awareness courses – please feel free to speak to us today to find out about the different courses available.
Fire Risk Assessment
The Responsible Person must conduct a comprehensive fire risk assessment of the workplace. Only businesses with 5 or more people are required to keep a written record of the assessment, but we advise that all organisations, regardless of the number of employees, have a record of the assessment – it is the foundation of your workplace’s fire safety and is usually the first thing a fire authority inspecting officer will ask to see if your premises is inspected.
Within the assessment, you must:
- Identify not only fire hazards, but also the people at risk.
- Evaluate, remove and reduce the risks.
- Keep a record of your findings, put together an emergency plan and provide training for staff.
- Regularly review the assessment and update it where necessary.
During the assessment, you’ll need to consider a whole host of factors, such as:
- An emergency fire evacuation plan.
- Emergency routes and exits.
- Fire fighting equipment.
- The needs of vulnerable people, including the elderly, those with disabilities and young children.
You can do the fire risk assessment yourself, but it can be beneficial to get professional advice before you start to ensure the assessment you carry out is thorough and detailed. We offer two fire risk assessment courses, both of which are designed to support you when conducting and reviewing the assessment for your business. Contact a member of the Infinite Solutions team today to find out more about our professional courses.
Fire Evacuation Plan
Within your emergency fire safety evacuation plan, you must clearly outline the procedures everyone needs to follow should a fire occur in your workplace. It’s imperative that your plans show you have:
- A clear passageway to all escape routes (which are clearly marked, and as short and direct as possible).
- Enough exits and routes for all people to safely escape.
- Emergency doors that open easily.
- Emergency lighting where appropriate.
- Evidence that employees are aware of all the escape routes.
- A safe meeting point for staff.
- Made special arrangements for people with mobility needs – people in wheelchairs, for example, may require extra assistance with stairs.
Frequent checks will need to be carried out on the escape routes to make sure they’re clear and in good condition. Emergency lighting also needs to be checked every month to ensure it’s working correctly and all fire escape doors need to be maintained to check they can be opened easily.
Fire Safety Equipment
UK workplaces are required to have fire detection and warning systems equipped throughout the premises, as well as appropriate fire-fighting equipment. All devices need to be properly installed, tested and maintained to ensure they’re kept in working order, and staff need to be trained to use them.
Portable fire extinguishers, fire alarms, and fire safety signs are some examples of the equipment you’re likely to need at your premises. Some higher-risk businesses may require hose reels or sprinklers, but this isn’t essential for all work environments.
Regular checks of your equipment will need to be carried out to ensure they’re operating correctly. Fire alarm systems need to be working all-year round, and fire extinguishers need to be maintained by a competent person and certified to industry standards.
Fire safety signs are also a crucial part of your fire safety equipment list. Some signs are legal requirements, whereas other are optional. Many business owners disregard them, but they help staff during an emergency and can be the difference between life and death. Some of the signs you need to be aware of include:
- Fire extinguisher ID point – explains and locates each type of extinguisher (mandatory for all fire extinguishers).
- Fire action notice – explains what to do in case of fire (mandatory for all premises).
- Fire alarm call point signs – identifies where to activate the fire alarm (mandatory if you have a fire alarm).
- Fire exit signs – how to exit in case of fire (mandatory except the smallest of premises).
- Warning and Prohibition signs – highlights danger (mandatory if there’s extra risk of fire on your premises).
- Other fire equipment signs – if you have a hose reel or dry riser, you’ll need to signpost exactly where they are.
Fire Safety Training
It’s vital that all of your team understand and know what to do in the event of a fire. UK fire safety regulation requires you to:
- Show new employees your fire procedures and what to do as soon as they join the business.
- Provide annual refresher training.
- Carry out regular fire drills.
- Provide fire safety training updates if any alterations to the building occurs.
Fire Safety Penalties
You’ll receive visits from your local fire and rescue authority to check your fire risk assessment and fire prevention measures are up to standard. As well as helping you to understand the latest rules, they can take action if they feel your fire safety measures aren’t adequate. Here’s what might happen if they feel this is this case:
- Alterations Notice – you’ll be issued this if your property has high safety risks.
- Enforcement Notice – you’ll receive this if the authority finds a serious risk that’s not being effectively managed. This will also explain the improvements that need to be made and by what date.
- Prohibition Notice – this takes immediate effect and is issued when the authority believes the fire risk is so great that access to your premises needs to be prohibited or restricted.
- Penalties – in extreme cases, you could be fined or go to prison if you don’t follow fire safety regulations. Minor penalties can be anything up to £5,000, and major penalties can have unlimited fines and up to 2 years in prison.
Fire Safety in the Workplace Training with Infinite Solutions
For specialist advice and assistance in any aspect of fire safety in the workplace, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team here at Infinite Solutions. We deliver a range of engaging fire safety and awareness courses throughout the UK, and are committed to helping businesses ensure they comply with UK legislation.