Fire Safety and the Law 10 Years On

Around 10 years ago the Regulatory Reform [Fire Safety] Order 2005, and the Fire [Scotland] Act 2005 (with the associated Fire Safety [Scotland] Regulations 2006) replaced and vastly simplified the previous mishmash of assorted regulations and law.

The above consolidated regulations made it a legal requirement for businesses to take steps to reduce the risk of a fire occurring and minimising the damage that could potentially result. Something that is of benefit to both employees and businesses alike. The primary ‘tool’ for ensuring that a business has accomplished this is through a Fire Risk Assessment (FRA).

So, what exactly is a Fire Risk Assessment? It is a thorough examination of your building(s) which will examine the potential risks, both to people and to the business itself, as well as the fire precautions that are in place and that may be required. The completed FRA will summarise what the assessor has found and highlight any areas of particular concern (if any) as well as giving an indication of the overall level of risk.

An important point is that the law requires that an FRA is carried out by a competent person. It then comes down to, who is a competent person? Of course, as often with the law, there is never an entirely straightforward answer. There have been recent cases of people being fined heavily for not using a competent person, as highlighted in this news article. The Government Health & Safety Executive defines a competent person as, “A competent person is someone who has sufficient training and experience or knowledge and other qualities that allow them to assist you properly. The level of competence required will depend on the complexity of the situation and the particular help you need.” So, charming though they may be, Big Baz from the warehouse and Chardonay from accounts are probably not the right people to carry out your FRA.

The duties of a business under the regulations do not end with just having an FRA completed, but it is a good start, and serves as a foundation for ensuring compliance. The Fire Brigade, who are the enforcing authority and have a duty to prosecute non-compliant businesses, will expect to see your FRA if they visit your premises. Ignorance of the law is not an excuse as any reputable business is expected to be conversant with and observe all the laws that apply to them.

Smaller businesses often assume, wrongly, that these laws only apply to larger businesses and that the Fire Brigade will not be interested in them. This is a mistake as business owners sometimes find out.

If you have questions about fire risk assessment, or for help on any aspect of fire safety, call us on 01524 784356 today.

Commercial buildings, non-domestic and multi-occupancy premises in England and Wales are already forced to undertake a 'suitable and sufficient' fire risk assessment carried out under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. While the overwhelming majority of premises do this, if the assessment is thought to have been carried out to an insufficient extent, the Responsible Person can face an unlimited fine or up to two years in prison.

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