In recent years, fire safety legislation has been optimised so that all responsibilities are assigned to the right people. Building owners and landlords must comply with all regulations and ensure their buildings are maintained and the occupants remain safe. The main piece of legislation for fire safety in the UK is the Fire Regulatory Safety Order. And the responsibility of enforcing this legislation usually lies with local fire and rescue authorities (FRAs), though the Health and Safety Executive holds responsibility for construction sites and for ships that are undergoing construction or repair.
Being responsible for fire safety requires business owners to provide an in-depth and transparent overview of the condition of their building, and a risk assessment detailing that all necessary steps have been taken to reduce the risk of fire. In this article, we’ll outline exactly who is responsible for fire safety in a building. We’ll also define the rights of the relevant authorities when enforcing fire safety legislation.
If you have concerns about fire safety regulation compliance, you should contact your local FRA in the first instance. Your local fire service will be able to point you in their direction.
The FRA employs inspectors, who can carry out the following to enforce the Regulatory Fire and Safety Order:
- Enter the premises to carry out an inspection
- Identify those that are responsible for maintaining fire safety protocol
- Expect the compliance and assistance of the responsible person/s with the inspection
- Evaluate compliance with all the necessary provisions specific to the Regulatory Fire and Safety order
- Request access to any mandatory records and plans, such as documentation relating to the building’s most recent Fire Risk Assessment
- Take material samples from premises to ascertain their safety/flammability
- If anything is found to be unsafe, inspectors can order them to be dismantled, destroyed, or tested further.
Who is responsible for fire safety in commercial buildings?
Whoever is in control of commercial premises is responsible for fire safety. For most commercial spaces that means the responsibility lies with the employer. This means they must carry out a thorough, written Fire Risk Assessment and regularly review it.
The fire risk assessment will:
- Identify the fire hazards
- Identify people at risk
- Evaluate, remove or reduce the risk
You’ll need to record your findings if you have 5 employees or more. You’ll also need to prepare an emergency plan and provide training.
You’ll need to consider:
- Emergency routes and exits
- Fire detection and warning systems
- Fire fighting equipment
- The removal or safe storage of dangerous substances
- An emergency fire evacuation plan
- The needs of vulnerable people, for example the elderly, young children or those with disabilities
- Providing information to employees and other people on the premises
- Staff fire safety training
You can complete the fire risk assessment yourself with the help of standard fire safety risk assessment guides. If you don’t have the expertise or time to complete this yourself, then you’ll need to appoint a ‘competent person’ to help, for example a professional risk assessor.
Your local fire and rescue authority may be able to give you advice, but they cannot carry out risk assessments for you.
Some commercial property leases specify that it is the duty of the landlord to be responsible for common spaces such as stairways, reception areas and fire safety systems such as alarms and fire doors. We advise landlords to speak to a specialist landlord solicitor to ensure they are aware of their responsibilities as commercial property owners.
Swift Fire & Safety is passionate about fire protection, safety, and compliance. Want to find out more about our specialist fire protection services? Contact our team of specialists today.