If you own, manage or operate a business, you need to comply with fire safety law. The main law is the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 or "the Fire Safety Order". It applies across England and Wales and came into force on 1 October 2006. Below in a nutshell is all you need to know about this order and how it affects you...
Who does it apply to?
The Order applies to almost all buildings, places and structures other than individual private homes – that's individual flats in a block or family homes.
Other places covered by the Order include shared areas in houses in multiple occupation (HMOs), blocks of flats and maisonettes.
What are your responsibilities?
You need to make sure:
- Your premises reach the required standards.
- Employees are provided with adequate fire safety training.
What does 'adequate fire safety training' mean in practice?
The Fire Safety Order requires the "responsible person" to ensure all staff receive adequate fire safety training. This meaning it is a requirement for employers to give employees information to ensure they remain safe and know what to do in the event of a fire.
It varies from business to business, but generally includes:
- Induction training to cover general fire awareness.
- Periodic refresher training, or extra training where the level of fire risk increases as a result of changes in your operations.
- Training to support people in meeting their fire safety duties – for example, keeping your 'responsible people' up to date.
- Training to build appropriate skills such as fire risk assessment, fire warden or using fire extinguishers.
What about Fire Risk Assessments?
By law, if you are responsible for commercial premises, you need to make sure that a Fire Risk Assessment has been completed by a competent person. It's mandatory to carry out a detailed assessment identifying the risks and hazards in the premises. It must be recorded if you have a total of five or more employees. The responsible person for the premises is also required to:
- Consider who may be especially at risk.
- Eliminate or reduce the risk of fire as far as is reasonably practical.
- Provide general fire precautions to deal with any risk.
- Take additional measures to ensure fire safety where flammable or explosive materials are used or stored.
- Create a plan to deal with any emergency and where necessary record any findings.
- Maintain general fire precautions, and facilities provided for use by firefighters.
- Keep any findings of the risk assessment under review.
You can read more on our 'Fire Risk Assessments page' here
Where will I find additional guidance about the required standards for my building?
If you are responsible for specialised housing – for example, sheltered housing, extra care housing, or supported housing for people with common characteristics, such as learning disabilities and mental health problems – NFCC Specialised Housing Guidance is helpful.
If you need information about requirements for purpose-built dwellings such as blocks of flats, the Local Government Association (LGA) provides useful information in their downloadable publication Fire safety in purpose-built flats.
If you are looking for more information about shared houses, bedsits and HMOs, please see this LACoRS guidance.
The gov.uk website is here – it provides additional guidance for most circumstances.
What happens if you aren't compliant?
If it's found that there's something wrong, then action ranging from providing information and advice to prosecuting those responsible in a court of law is available. For serious offences, you could be fined and/or imprisoned.