An employers guide to complying with Fire Safety

My name is Mitchell Winter and for my sins I am head of Practice here at Winter & Company Health & Safety, I receive a steady stream of enquiries asking for advice and assistance in matters of Fire Safety, bearing in mind that Fire Certificates are now null and void and that Fire safety is no longer the responsibility of the Fire Dept and has been transferred directly to the occupier and or controller of commercial property.

Ok I hear you say, what’s that got to do with me. Well to be frank, an awful lot and just in case you think oh here we go with another cranky bit of Health & Safety, just imagine your reaction to being told by your Insurers that as a consequence of that nasty fire that wiped out your property and business, they are not going to pay out after you have religiously paid those premiums year on year.

Ok I assume I now have your full attention and yes this is a reality for those who continue to ignore the requirements under The Fire Safety Revolution better know as The Regulatory Reform (fire) Safety Order 2005. (RRFSO).

So let me tell you a story, Once upon a time there was an Act called the Fire Precautions Act 1971. Under this Act a Fire Enforcement Officer would call at your premises, carry out a detailed inspection and tell you what needed to be done in order to obtain a Fire Certificate. Now do bear in mind that a Fire Certificate was essentially a license to occupy your property from a fire safety perspective, so very much needed, not optional.

The resultant Fire Certificate would be accompanied by a detailed drawing/plan with lots of very easy to read symbols directing you to where the fire call points should be located along with smoke detectors, fire doors and extinguishers to name but a few.

In other words you could rely on your local friendly Fire Enforcement Officer to tell you what to do and when to do it. The only problem with that was it was taking up to much time and not leaving adequate time to fight fires, prosecute and spread positive propaganda such as “collect your free smoke detector for your home”

Nice story so far? Great system I hear you mutter, yes it was and now it has been abolished.

So I thought it would be helpful to produce a feature article on Fire Safety in order that you may fully understand your new found responsibilities and ensure you stay on the right side of the Law and of course within your Insurers requirements. So to assist you, please take some time to digest the following guide:

Q & A

Does the Regulatory Reform (fire) Safety Order 2005 order apply to me?
Yes, every employer must make a written assessment of the fire safety issues using the Risk Assessment process, taking in to account fire detection, arrangements, facilities, maintenance of all building services and training requirements.

Will a fire officer assess the workplace and the arrangements and issue a fire certificate?
No, The responsibility lies solely with the employer/controller/occupier of the property. Fire Certification has been completely revoked.

Who is a responsible person?
A person or persons who may have control over all or part of the building.

Where does it say that I have make these safety arrangements?
Part 2 of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 details that it is the Employer must provide a duty of care to their employees, as well as providing the information on the requirements to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks.

What makes a competent person?
A competent person is someone with enough training and experience or knowledge and other qualities to be able to implement these measures properly.

What is a hazard?
A hazard is something that has the potential to cause harm

Who enforces the Fire Safety Order?
The local fire and relevant authorities will enforce the order

October 2006 saw a change in how fire safety was to be implemented in the workplace. The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 was designed to make the compliance in the workplace easier to understand and safety standards consistent across all business models.

The Order completely replaces any previous legislation. The Fire Certifications that were once issued by the local fire authorities have been revoked and replaced with the Risk Assessment based approach to evaluating the level of appropriate arrangements required

Every employer has a duty of care to ensure they concern themselves with evaluating the hazards within the workplace and take all reasonable steps to prevent and minimise the potential for harm to be realised. Fire Safety becomes an integral part of the workplace evaluation the speed at which a fire can start and spread makes it an issue which if realised has the potential to injure or even kill many people.

It is also the employer’s responsibility to make sure the workplace reaches the required standards of safety by providing a procedure by which responsible persons are identified, creating a culture of effective communication and balancing this with the provision of information, instruction and training to all employees.

If you are part of a multi occupancy building then the control over the building arrangements may be shared and therefore effective communication must be paramount to ensuring sufficient evaluation has been made. Understanding the boundaries of responsibility and the expectations between the landlord and the tenant must be shown within the findings of the risk assessment.

The fire risk assessment will help you identify any risks that can be removed or reduced and ensure that any fire precautions are appropriate to the type and size of business.

The Fire risk assessment is based on the following steps:

  • Identifying the hazards
  • Identify the people at risk
  • Evaluate the potential risk
  • Record any findings
  • Provide the information on when the assessment should be reviewed

Following the risk assessment findings you will be able to complete and communicate an emergency plan.

The plan should include;

  • The appointment of competent persons
  • Action to be taken on discovering a fire
  • Warning Systems
  • Facilities to call the fire brigade
  • Arrangements for safe evacuation of all persons, including visitors and any vulnerable persons who may need assistance
  • Identification of a safe place or places to assessable
  • Facilities to effectively liaise with the emergency services
  • Training
  • Information and instruction

Should an enforcing authority wish to inspect your premises and arrangements for fire safety they will look for evidence that you have complied with the duties set out by the order. They will look for evidence that you have carried out a suitable fire risk assessment and acted upon the significant findings of that assessment. Ensuring that the level of prevention is appropriate to the level of risk posed by the type and size of accommodation.

Good fire safety management is essential to ensure that fires are unlikely to occur, but total commitment from all members of staff to co operate with all rules and procedures is paramount to implementing an effective safe system of work. No one person must do anything that adversely affects the health, safety and welfare of another person. Complacency from staff on relying on fire detection systems or early warnings should not be common place. Revisiting training, effective housekeeping and participating in practice evacuation days will help keep everyone focused on the importance of workplace fire safety.

As you would expect, here at Winter & Company we are able to undertake your Fire Risk Assessment and advise on any outstanding issues as well as your general level of conformity. For further information, email me direct at [email protected], visit our website at or just call Eve Horgan to set up a no obligation meeting on 020 7353 4999.