If you are an employer, you know that ensuring the fire safety of your employees and your visitors is a responsibility that cannot be taken lightly and it also requires a good amount of fire safety knowledge. Following the fire exit regulations and requirements is a key element in providing a safe escape route in case of a fire incident. Therefore, today will be looking at answering your burning fire exit questions, from how many fire exits you need to how wide your fire exits should be.
What is a fire exit?
Let’s start by answering the most basic question first – what is a fire exit? Usually, a fire exit or an emergency exit is any door that leads people out of a building in the event of a fire, as well as any means used to exit a building if a fire occurs.
The normal door you use to enter and exit your work premises can qualify as an emergency exit but a building will usually also have a special fire exit for faster evacuation. It’s also a good way to ensure that there are exit options available in case the regular exit is somehow obstructed.
Fire exit regulations in the UK
The main fire safety regulations in the UK, including the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, the Fire Safety (Scotland) Regulations 2006, and the Fire Safety Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2010, all address the definition and requirements for a fire exit.
According to the common requirements a fire exit must:
- be easily accessible
- lead to a safe assembly point
- be opened from the inside
- be unlocked
- never be obstructed
- be regularly inspected
- be clearly marked with emergency exit signs
- not be a sliding or revolving door
- be in a permanent location known to all employees
How many fire exits do I need?
Part of the employer’s duties and responsibilities is to provide enough suitable fire exits in case of an emergency evacuation. Non-compliance with the fire route regulations in the UK can put lives in danger and cause fire-related injuries or even deaths that could have been prevented.
There is no set number of fire exits that you must have in any given building as this depends on several factors, including:
- How big are the premisses
- How many people work there
- Are your premises open to the public
- Are there any particular fire hazards on the premises (i.e. working with flammable materials)
However, if you are wondering how many exits you need, the government guidelines suggest that you should always try to provide more than one fire exit where possible. Those must be completely independent of each other and accessible by completely separate escape routes to increase your options of safely exiting a burning building.
Having one fire exit only can be dangerous for larger premises, as the fire exit may not be close enough for an adequately fast evacuation time and in case the flames cause an obstruction on the way, you may find yourself trapped inside the building. Small buildings, however, may not require more than one exit. When there is only one emergency exit, it must have a fire-resistant emergency door installed.
Where should fire exits be located?
The location of the fire exits is also important – the easier they are to get to, the better. To put this into exact numbers, when you have multiple fire escapes, every place within your premises should be 60 metres or less away from the nearest escape door. If during a fire risk assessment it has been established that your building is at a high risk of fire, the maximum distance from a fire exit drops to 25 metres.
For smaller premises with only one emergency exit, the requirements change and you must ensure that no point within the buildings is further than 25 metres away from your fire exit. If you are at a high risk of fire and you have only one exit, the required maximum distance is cut by half again, so it is 12 metres or less.
Here are the maximum fire exit distance requirements at a glance:
- Low fire risk + multiple exits => 60 metres
- High fire risk + multiple exits => 25 metres
- Low fire risk + one exit => 25 metres
- High fire risk + one exit => 12 metres
Who is responsible for checking the fire exits?
The employer is ultimately responsible for ensuring that there are enough fire exits and that they are regularly inspected and maintained. As an employer, you must assign certified fire marshals whose duties include daily fire safety checks. It is also your responsibility to provide your fire marshals with the required fire safety training.
Fire Exit FAQ
Hopefully, if we haven’t answered all your biggest fire exit queries above, you will find the answers you are looking for in our quick frequently asked questions section below.
Should fire exit doors be kept closed?
Yes, fire exit doors must be kept closed at all times. The only exception is if certified fire door retainers have been installed. A regular door wedge doesn’t classify as a certified retainer.
Should fire exit doors be locked?
No, fire exit doors must remain unlocked and unobstructed at all times.
Can I block a fire exit temporarily?
No, you must never block a fire exit, even if it’s temporary as it could endanger everyone on the premises.
How wide should a fire exit be?
The minimum width for a fire exit is 750mm. However, the advised minimum width is 1050mm, as a fire exit that is less than 900mm is not suitable for wheelchair users.
How many fire exits should I have?
You should have minimum one fire exit for a small building and minimum two escape exits for a larger building.
What are fire exit signs?
Fire exit signs are information signs that direct you to the nearest fire exit in case of an emergency. They must be visible at all times and in all conditions, including smoke and darkness.
How often should fire escape routes be checked?
Fire escape routes and fire exits must be checked daily by the designated fire warden.
Why is having a fire exit important?
It is important to have a fire exit as it can prevent many fire-related injuries and deaths by providing a safe passage to safety in case of an emergency. It is also a legal requirement to have an adequate number of fire exits on your premises. Non-compliance can lead to legal action being taken against you.
What is the difference between a fire escape route and a fire exit?
The fire exit is a door or an opening that leads to safety in an event of an emergency. The fire escape route is the designated shortest path to safety in case of an evacuation. There can be multiple fire exits along one escape route.
Who is responsible for fire exit requirements?
It is the duty of the employer to ensure that all fire safety regulations are complied with, including ensuring that all fire exit requirements are met.
What if I don’t have enough fire exits?
Compliance with the government fire exit regulations is regularly checked by your local fire and rescue authorities. Failure to comply may result in a fine or even a prison sentence if someone is injured or killed as a result of your non-compliance.