New fire safety regulations were recently passed that affect all workplaces in England and Wales. While many workplaces have the basic precautions in place, there are many that don’t. Once you know the basics, such as how to assess the risk and what fundamental safety measures are required, fire safety is not a difficult topic, and the new fire safety regulations will be easy to implement.
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, as it is known (or RRO), is designed to turn almost all the earlier pieces of UK fire safety legislation into one all-inclusive law.
Here is a short précis of the important parts of the Order that concern all those who run a business or institution situated in a building, based on key words used and their meanings:
- Responsible Person: the person who owns or controls the business or premises
- Competent Person: this could be an employee or an outside contractor appointed and trained to carry out fire fighting duties, contact the emergency services, and assist in evacuations
- Enforcement: failing to satisfy the applicable articles of the Order may result in a fine or up to two years imprisonment
- Fire Risk Assessment: if the responsible person employs 5 or more people, or if the premises are licensed, or if the inspector wants it, this vital plank of the Order must be officially documented
The Fire Safety Order applies to all buildings in use, except domestic premises and some kinds of premises that are a specific risk and where other regulations apply. It also places duties on a ‘responsible person’ not only to protect employees but members of the public.
Don’t forget that every building is going to be different – different fire hazards in different places affecting different people.
Fire Risk Assessment
The Law requires that Risk Assessment be done, consistent with most of the new regulations regarding health and safety. It is important to consider how a fire would affect the people in the building, starting with those immediately at risk from the fire.
The outcomes of the Risk Assessments must be presented in writing where five or more people are employed, in line with many other regulations.
One of the reasons for Fire Risk Assessment is to lessen the chances of fire occurring. A fire prevention plan should be easy to put together and should be a matter of common sense for most workplaces.
Some measures to consider include making sure rubbish is not stored near the premises, and ensuring that the electrical wiring is tested and inspected frequently.
There are a number of general fire precautions required by the regulations but it is important to remember that every workplace is different and every work location has different needs. What works in one building might not work elsewhere.
The most important fire safety regulations to consider include:
- A whistle or an electric fire alarm, or some other kind of fire warning
- Automatic fire detectors might be needed in some buildings, especially if a fire could be a risk to people if it is not detected (such as a two-story building) or there are large numbers of people in the building
- There must be fire extinguishers in the building, not only to maintain exits while people evacuate but also to control small fires
- There must be enough fire exits in the building for the numbers of people who use it and exits must lead as directly to safety as possible
- Exits must be clearly marked with exit signs and they must be kept clear and readily available
- Fire exit routes might need to be protected so that the smoke and flames won’t affect people evacuating the building
- Emergency lighting might be needed in some situations to light exit routes and rooms in the event of a power failure
- Fire equipment must be maintained and looked after, so that they are in working order
- There must be a fire procedure for the building, outlining people’s responsibilities and the evacuation plan in case of fire