Fire Safety Legislation

All fire safety legislation in England and Wales is gathered under The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. Sometimes called the Fire Safety Order (FSO) or otherwise known as the RRO, it came into force in October 2006 and was designed to simplify the existing fire safety regulations at the time.

The simplified message of the FSO is that any person, who has some level of control of premises, must take reasonable steps to reduce the risk from fire and ensure that everyone who may be on the premises, at the time of the fire, can escape safely.

Who does it apply to?

All premises used for non-domestic purposes, with a few small exceptions, fall under these regulations. The order applies to nearly every type of building and structure:

Offices and shops
Care providers (including care homes and hospitals)
Community halls, places of worship and other community premises
Shared areas of properties that several households live in (housing laws may also apply)
Pubs, clubs and restaurants
Schools and sports centres
Tents and marquees
Hotels and hostels
Factories and warehouses

Charity organisations also come under the FSO and any contractor with temporary control over a building or structure is also responsible for fire safety.

How does it apply?

Under the FSO, if you have control of the premises ie. business owner, employer, landlord, or individual who maintains control of the property, you are the ‘Responsible Person’ and are ultimately accountable for the fire safety of that premises and the individuals within it.

The order states that the ‘Responsible Person’ should take steps to reduce fire risk and as far as is reasonably practical make sure that everyone on the premises, or nearby, can safely evacuate the building, in the event of a fire.

As the responsible person, you must appoint one or more ‘Competent Persons’ to assist in undertaking the preventive and protective measures.

What do you need to do to comply?

1. Fire Risk Assessment

You must ensure that a thorough Fire Risk Assessment is carried out at regular intervals by a Competent Person to:

Identify fire hazards
Identify the relevant people who may be at risk
Eliminate and reduce risk from fire as far as is reasonably possible and provide general fire precautions to deal with any possible risk left
Provide fire precautions to deal with the identified risks
Take precautions if there are flammable materials on the premises
Create a plan to deal with any emergency

Risk Assessments and the actions taken as a result should be kept as a record and provided at any inspections. The Risk Assessment should be reviewed regularly, and necessary amendments made if there are significant changes to the property including construction work, or significant changes made to control the spread of COVID-19.

As a BAFE Life Safety Fire Risk Assessment SP205 registered company, our highly qualified and experienced Fire Risk Assessors are experienced in identifying and addressing the needs of all users of your premises and providing advice about how you can comply with all relevant legislation.

2. Emergency Plan

You must take all reasonable precautions to make sure everyone on the premises can escape safely in the event of a fire. If you don’t, you are liable to face penalties for non-compliance.

An emergency plan is required to help co-ordinate the responses of all the occupants in an emergency situation and ensure any issues are rectified before an incident occurs. It is particularly important when planning and trialling fire evacuation procedures to consider the usage and personal circumstances of the occupants and visitors to a building. Limited mobility, lack of understanding of fire procedures and lack of familiarity with the building can seriously increase evacuation time.

Putting together an emergency plan generally involves a building inspection and evaluation, usually with reference to the fire risk assessment. The plan will need to be reviewed following any significant changes in building structure, occupancy or processes.

3. Fire Safety Training

You must make sure all employees receive adequate fire safety training in line with their responsibilities. Staff and other people working on site need to be given clear instructions regarding what they need to do if there is a fire. This should take into consideration anyone with learning difficulties, disabilities and those for whom English is a foreign language.

Nominated staff play a significant role in the successful evacuation of premises. Fire wardens/marshals need to be appropriately trained to make sure they have a thorough understanding of their responsibilities and have the confidence to carry out their role effectively. Staff without specific duties should receive fire safety awareness training on induction with refresher training at regular intervals as appropriate.

4. Fire Evacuation Drills

The law requires you to carry out regular fire evacuation drills. This helps to evaluate the effectiveness of your emergency plan and consolidate staff training. The drill should be conducted by a competent person who is able to observe and report on procedures, highlight any issues and recommend appropriate improvements.

Government guidance advocates conducting a fire evacuation drill at least once, but preferably twice, in any 12-month period. The drill should be recorded in the logbook.

5. Testing & Maintenance

A variety of regular tests need to be conducted to avoid the penalties for non-compliance. The results of these should be recorded in the site logbook as a record of due diligence. These include:

Fire Alarm Maintenance

In addition to weekly testing, routine maintenance of your fire alarm system will ensure all the elements of the system are working effectively. British Standard BS 5839 recommends 6 monthly.

Fire Extinguisher Maintenance

Basic extinguisher maintenance should be conducted on an annual basis to make sure the equipment is working safely and effectively. An extended or overhaul service may be required for certain types of extinguishers every 5 or 10 years.

Emergency Lighting Maintenance

Emergency lighting also needs to be routinely serviced. It is recommended that this is done at 6 monthly intervals or annually, during which the annual battery drain will be conducted as per the British Standard BS 5266.

Fire Door Maintenance

Again, it is the ‘responsible person’s job to uphold fire door maintenance, checking all elements from the intumescent seals to the self-closing hinges at least twice a year (more often if foot traffic is high).

Dry Riser Maintenance

Testing and inspection of dry riser components must be carried out annually, with a further requirement to have a visual inspection completed on a 6-monthly basis.

Sprinkler Maintenance

Sprinkler maintenance should be conducted to make sure the equipment is working safely and effectively. The relevant British standard recommends maintenance is carried out every 6 months.

Aspirating Systems Maintenance

A daily
visual inspection, a weekly test sounding of the
call points and a quarterly checking of the entire
system – including cleanliness and battery performance
if relevant – is sufficient.

Fire Suppression Systems Maintenance

Fire suppression systems require regular
inspection of their components, as well as the integrity
of the room in which they are used, to ensure that
agents are not able to escape during use.

Fire Hose Reels Maintenance

Fire hose maintenance is recommended on, at
a minimum, an annual basis in accordance with BS 5306-1:2006.

Fire Safety Signs

Fire safety signage is required to instruct occupants how to
exit the building safely.

Who enforces the order?

The Order has been rigorously enforced since 2006, with large fines and potential imprisonment imposed on the Responsible Persons for significant breaches.

Fire authorities will be the main agency responsible for enforcing all fire-safety legislation in non-domestic premises. They will target their resources and inspections at those premises that present the highest risk.

All fire authorities will continue to look into complaints about fire safety, carry out investigations after fires where poor fire-safety management is discovered and may carry out targeted inspections.

If you do not meet the order, the fire authority will provide practical advice or, if the risk is serious, a formal notice.

Where can I get more information?

To support the Order, the The Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLC) have published a number of Guidance Documents to assist you in meeting your responsibilities. They will give advice on most types of premises where the duty to undertake a fire safety risk assessment under the Order applies.

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 – A short guide to making your premises safe from fire will give an overview and the following eleven guides will address the following categories of premises.

Checklist to ensure your compliance

Do you:

Carry out a Fire Risk Assessment to identify any possible dangers and risks?
Consider who may be at risk?
Remove or reduce the risk of fire as far as is reasonably possible?
Take measures to make sure there is protection from flammable or explosive materials?
Create a plan to deal with any emergency and keep a record of findings?
Regularly review your findings?

If you are responsible for fire safety, it can sometimes be difficult to stay up to date with all the regulatory information available to you. Marlowe Fire & Security can work with you to help clarify your obligations and advise on how to provide appropriate fire detection and fire safety equipment.