The Ultimate Guide to Fire Safety in the UK: Regulations, Training & Prevention
According to the fire safety regulations in the UK, the responsibility for fire safety and prevention at a non-domestic building can be attributed to you if you are the employer, the landlord, the owner, an occupier or if you are in control of the premises (e.g. you are the building manager or the risk assessor).
If you find yourself in one of these roles, then you are referred to as a “responsible person” by the law and you can be held accountable for any workplace incidents that happen due to fire safety risks that have not been adequately managed.
Below, we’ll look at what those regulations are, as well as what you need to do to ensure compliance with the applicable legislation and to protect yourself, your employees and anyone else visiting your workplace.
Fire Safety Regulations in the UK
The main legislative document detailing the rules and regulations for fire safety in all non-domestic premises (with small exception) in the UK is The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
If you are the responsible person for any place of work, a common area in a building with multiple occupants, or a publicly accessible area, then these fire safety rules apply to you and you have the responsibility to take the necessary fire precautions.
Here’s an outline of the main fire prevention actions you are legally required to take:
- Ensure regular fire risk assessments are carried out
- Communicate any identified risks to the people on the premises
- Implement hazard control measure to minimise the risks
- Install, inspect and regularly maintain all fire safety equipment
- Create an emergency response plan
- Organise adequate fire safety training & evacuation drills
It may sound like a lot of responsibility but these are all key elements of an effective fire prevention strategy. To help you get all of your fire safety duties right, we’ll give you more details on each one below.
Fire Safety Training
The fire safety regulations talk about “adequate fire safety training” and let’s face it – this sounds rather vague. Unfortunately, there is no precise answer to what “adequate” means. The problem is that the specifics vary greatly depending on the size of the business, the type of risks in the workplace and the current level of awareness of your employees.
However, there are certain types of training that you must offer for the fire safety training provided to be considered as adequate. Those include:
- A general fire awareness training
- Refresher training, especially if new risks have been identified
- Additional training for appointed responsible people to support them with their duties
- Special skills training, such as fire marshal/warden training, fire risk assessment training, how to use fire extinguishers and other fire safety equipment training
To get all of the required fire safety training organised, you will need to contact professional fire safety training specialists and coordinate your training plan and requirements with them.
Fire Safety Risk Assessment
Conducting regular fire risk assessments is one of the most important processes for fire prevention in the workplace. The goal is to identify what could cause a fire incident at the workplace and what measures you should take to reduce the chances of such incidents.
It’s recommended to do a fire risk assessment at least once a year and sooner if there have been significant changes in the workplace, especially if they could potentially create fire hazards (you are now working with flammable materials, you have new equipment, you have changed the layout of the building etc).
Also, if you have more than five people working at your company, you must keep a detailed record of every risk assessment. Those records can be requested for inspection by the fire authorities at any time.
Every fire risk assessment must include the following steps:
- Identify any potential fire hazards
- For each hazard, consider who would be at risk
- Assess how likely the fire risk is and how much damage it could cause
- Come up with ways to remove or manage the hazards
- Implement risk controls and assess their validity regularly
- Use your findings to design an emergency plan and identify fire training needs
- Keep a record of your findings
- Review your fire risk assessment regularly
You can do the risk assessment yourself if you wish to do so but you will have to follow the specific risk assessment guidelines for the type of non-domestic premises you are responsible for. If you choose to do your own risk assessment, you will be held responsible for ensuring that it has been carried out correctly. The local fire authorities can advise you on whether you’ve missed something but they can’t do the assessment for you.
Luckily, if you are not a fire safety expert, there are certified risk assessment specialists who can come in and do the fire risk assessment for you. That way you can enjoy peace of mind knowing your workplace fire risk assessment has been carried out in accordance with the relevant industry standards and fire safety risk regulations.
Workplace Fire Safety: Equipment, Evacuation Plan & Drills
Even the most thorough fire risk assessment cannot guarantee you that a fire will never occur at your property. This is why preparing for the event of fire plays a huge role in ensuring workplace fire safety. Below we’ll discuss a few more things that you must consider to be ready in case of a fire incident at work.
Fire alarms and fire fighting equipment
Your workplace fire safety preparation should cover the installation, servicing and maintenance of all necessary fire safety equipment, including:
- A fully-functional fire alarm system that can be heard throughout the premises
- At least 2 Class A fire extinguishers on each floor of the building (as per BS 5306-8:2012)
- Two or more fire exit routes depending on the size of the building
- Othe fire safety equipment – a fire blanket, emergency lights, fire doors and a first aid kit
Providing the right equipment is only the first step. Then, you have to ensure that all of your equipment is regularly inspected and serviced as per the relevant legal requirements. Inspections and maintenance are necessary to ensure that issues with the equipment don’t catch you off guard. Discovering a fault in your fire alarm or your fire extinguisher during a fire is a nightmare scenario that can be avoided if all equipment is properly cared for.
Fire evacuation plan
You must have an evacuation plan in place in case of a fire and all your employees must be aware of the procedure. Your emergency plan should cover the following:
- Escape routes: There are enough escape routes, they are clearly marked and unobstructed
- Emergency doors: Those are easily-accessible, unlocked, unobstructed and they open outwards
- Emergency lighting and signage: Clear emergency exit signage and emergency lighting ( if needed) should be available
- Meeting point: There is a designated meeting point where everyone can gather safely while waiting for the emergency services to come
The fire evacuation plan should also take into account people with special mobility needs or any other special needs that could prevent them from evacuating safely. For example, you should make sure the escape doors are wide enough for a wheelchair to pass and that there are no stairs on the emergency route.
Fire drills at work
You must have a minimum of one documented fire drill per year.
No one is looking forward to being forced out of the office by loud fire alarm noises in the middle of the workday, especially if the British weather is being as rainy as we all know it can be. However, surprise fire drills are a necessary evil.
Any inconvenience that they may cause is offset by the fact that they are the only way to effectively test if the evacuation plan in place is working as expected. Any issues with the plan, the system or the fire safety awareness demonstrated by the staff can be flagged as a result of the drill and then addressed and corrected as needed.
Fire Prevention Checklist
To help you stay compliant with the fire safety regulations in the UK, we’ve put together a fire prevention checklist with the most important things you need to do as a responsible person of non-domestic premises:
- Install, service and maintain a fire detection and warning system
- Install, service and maintain functional fire safety equipment
- Carry out at least one fire risk assessment a year
- Conduct at least one fire drill per year
- Do a weekly fire alarm test
- Check all fire equipment and fire exits daily
- Get your fire extinguishers inspected at least once a year
- Get your fire extinguishers serviced at least every five years
- Appoint a fire marshal and ensure they get the appropriate training
- Organise regular fire safety awareness training
- Devise an evacuation plan for fire emergencies
We hope you found our guide to workplace fire safety in the UK helpful. If you need professional fire safety advice, fire safety training or fire safety equipment servicing, just get in touch with us and the Cardinal Fire team of fire experts will be happy to help.