What’s the History of Fire Safety Regulation in the UK?

It’s necessary for all businesses to be aware of fire safety legislation, but before getting involved in any detail, it can be useful to have an understanding of the basics. So, we’ve put together this guide for you to help you do just that.

The fire safety statutory provisions that we currently have in place in the UK have evolved from measures that have been introduced slowly over many years. The majority of fire safety legislation was introduced following a major fire or fires with high mortality rates. It is known as stable door legislation, because it was created in response to an event that has passed.
The main fire safety legislative order in the UK is called The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

This order should have come into force on the 1st April 2006, but was delayed until the 1st October 2006. It was created in response to a call to simplify and rationalise the UK fire regulations at the time. The previous UK fire safety legislation was amended and reformed using the Regulatory Reform Act 2001. The new order was designed to provide a minimum fire safety standard in non-domestic premises such as places of work.

All premises (or parts of premises) that are used for non-domestic purposes, with a few exceptions, are subjected to the Order. Usually, a person is designated as the Responsible Person for that property. Often it is the employer or the owner that holds this responsibility. The Responsible Person is required to carry out mandatory fire safety duties, which include ensuring the general fire precautions are satisfactory and carrying out a fire risk assessment. The Responsible Persons can have competent persons to assist them with performing their legal duties. If more than five persons are employed at the premises, it must be a written risk assessment.

What was the previous general fire safety legislation?

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 replaced previous fire safety legislation and any fire certificate issued under the Fire Precautions Act 1972 ceased having an effect. If a fire certificate was issued for your premises or the premises were built to building regulations under the previous regulations, then most people found they didn’t need to make too many changes to their existing fire protection measures in order to comply with the new order.

However, they still had to carry out a fire risk assessment and keep it up to date to ensure that all their fire precautions were up to date and satisfactory. It required a mind-set shift in order to take into account the wider scope of the new order. Premises were also subject to the provisions of a licence or registration in cases where the fire authority wished to review their risk assessment as part of the licensing approval process.

The new, risk-assessment based regime required those persons responsible for premises used for carrying of a trade, business or other undertakings, for profit or not (including the self-employed and also members of the public) to take action to prevent fires, and protect them against death and injury should a fire occur.
This was a similar duty to the one imposed on employers by the Fire Precautions (Workplace) Regulations 1997, but under the new order, the duty was extended beyond workplaces to include the majority of premises to which people have access.

To support the Order, The Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLC) published a suite of eleven new guidance documents. They gave advice on most types of premises where the duty to undertake a fire safety risk assessment under the new order applied.

To this day, using the guidance contained in the Fire Safety Advice Centre should be sufficient to meet the minimum standards that are required by United Kingdom Legislation.
If you feel overwhelmed by fire safety regulation and are unsure about whether or not you are meeting requirements, or what your responsibilities are, then do give us a call and we’ll walk you through it and let you know what we can offer to support your fire safety needs.

How to Test the Fire Alarms in your Workplace

A lot of businesses are not testing their fire alarms as frequently or thoroughly as they should be. This is usually not a deliberate attempt to be negligent or cut corners, but because most people mistakenly believe that fires in the workplace are quite a rare occurrence.

When in fact the Fire and Rescue services in England attended 15,815 ‘primary fires’ in non-dwelling buildings in 2016/17 – that’s more than 300 work place fires a week! These incidents resulted in 17 fatalities and 892 non-fatal casualties.

To prevent your business premises from becoming part of these terribly sad statistics, it’s crucial that you maintain your fire alarms properly and test them regularly. Let us take you through what the fire testing regulations are and how frequently you should be carrying out tests.

Is a Fire Alarm a Legal Requirement for a UK Business?

There are different legal requirements for every country within the UK. Each country’s regulations offer a different level of protection, but the short answer is . . . yes. A fire alarm IS a legal requirement in every UK country.

For England and Wales, check the regulations under The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005

For Scotland, check the regulations under Part 3 of The Fire (Scotland) Act 2005

For Northern Ireland, check the regulations under The Fire Safety Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2010

If you are in control of a building, even as a business tenant, you are classified as a responsible person and you must ensure that you are adhering to the regulation in fire safety for your country. This will always mean that you must make sure there is a suitable system for detecting fires and warning the people in the building of them. You must also make sure that this system is tested regularly and in the correct way. Each fire alarm system will have a different testing procedure, so you will need to refer to the guidelines sent to you by the manufacturer of speak with the company that installed it for you. Once you get into regular testing, the procedure will become second nature to you.

How often should I test my fire alarm?

In England, it is a legal requirement that your fire detection system is fully inspected and serviced every 6 months. Fire alarm tests to ensure the system is working should be carried out weekly.

How to test a Fire Alarm

As previously mentioned, fire alarm systems will differ depending on the make, model and the type of building they protect. But in general, the procedure is usually carried out as follows:

  • Inform all people in the building that a fire alarm test will be carried out imminently
  • Check that the alarm control panel has a valid connection to the ARC (alarm receiving centre) and put it into ‘test’ mode
  • Make sure you have the manual call point key with you, as you’ll need it to reset the system following the test
  • Activate a manual call point, wait for the alarm sounders and use the key to reset it.
  • Go back to the alarm control panel, check that the manual call point location is correct and then silence the alarm sounders
  • Record the results of your fire alarm test in your fire logbook
  • Contact the ARC and confirm that they received your fire signal
  • Reset the alarm control panel and take it out of test mode

Swift Fire & Safety is one of the UK’s most responsive fire protection and security companies. We will ensure that your premises have a fully-functional alarm system that meets your specific needs and legal obligations.

Contact us today and let us help you keep your business and employees safe.

All You Need to Know About Fire Safety Equipment

There are regulations surrounding the use and maintenance of Fire Safety equipment for non-domestic premises in England and Wales.  These are detailed in the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, which offers guidance for fire and rescue authorities and other bodies, about their duty to enforce fire safety in non-domestic premises.

 

Fire Safety Equipment

There is a hope that fire safety equipment never has to be used, but it is vitally important that it will function properly if the worst were to happen.

The term Fire Safety Equipment covers many aspects that contribute to fire prevention.  The tools, devices and elements of equipment include

Not every item listed above is compulsory, but the size and type of your building will determine exactly which of these is needed.

 

Fire Safety Equipment Maintenance

All Fire Safety Equipment on your premises should be maintained and serviced regularly.  It is imperitive to have these checks carried out to not only meet legislation, but to protect every person in your premises.

Failing to keep up with maintenance and servicing of your equipment could be costly in the long run. If equipment fails through neglect, the repurcussions could be huge.

Electing a responsible person to take on the responsibility of Fire Safety is recommended; this person would oversee the organisation of all necessary maintenance and tests to ensure all equipment meets the required standards. This information should then be entered into a Fire Safety Logbook.

 

Fire Extinguisher Maintenance

In the case of fire extinguishers, the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 requires them to be present in all commercial premises, and to be serviced annually. We offer this service here at Swift Fire & Safety.

In order to ensure that extinguishers are in good working order, they should be checked by a competent person, ideally a certified expert.  Serveral checks need to be made including making sure that:

  • The extinguisher is in date
  • The extinguisher hasn’t been interfered or tampered with
  • The weight and pressure are correct
  • The instructions are clearly visible
  • The pin and hose are in tact
  • The extinguisher is in visibly good condition

Your certified expert will inform you of any action if it is needed and will advise you if and when old extinguishers need to be replaced.  The visit should be recorded in the Fire Safety Logbook.  You will be issued with a service label to prove the service has been carried out, which is important for Fire Safety Inspections.

Knowing how to use extinguishers effectively and safely can save lives and reduce damage should a fire start. Be sure you are compliant with Health and Safety Regulations and fully prepared for the unthinkable.

 

Fire Safety Policy

According to the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) order 2005, every business must have a Fire Safety Policy. It should explain the general safety policy in place, the duties of the elected responsible person, any training information, equipment and testing and any events relating to fire safety.

This demonstrates commitment to Fire Safety and prevention.

 

Swift Fire & Safety offers a variety of fire prevention and protection services throughout Peterborough and Cambridge to keep your business up to standard. If you’d like more information you can call us on 01733 602955, email info@fireandsafety.com or click here.

 

The Importance of Fire Safety & Training

When we think about fire, catastrophic scenes can spring to mind.  But when you consider that it was man’s first form of heating and cooking, we realise that it has played an integral part in developing the human species.

It is only when fire is not managed carefully that it becomes hazardous.  Flames and smoke can spread quickly causing untold damage to people, animals, property, and the environment.

Whether a fire is started intentionally or by accident, the heat and poor visibility caused by smoke can make it very difficult to deal with effectively. And sadly, in some cases even more difficult to escape safely.

Know the Risks

Fires can start in a variety of ways, either by accident, human error, or with intent to cause harm. Faulty electrics, kitchen mishaps, overloaded plug sockets, discarded cigarettes and storage issues with combustible materials can all be to blame for fires.  If these risks are identified and dealt with accordingly then the likelihood of fire breaking out is much reduced.

PAT testing of electrical equipment should be routinely carried out, and appropriate measures taken to ensure the safety of people inside the building.

Prevention

Minimising the risk of fire is important; take the risks seriously and put measures in place to counter them.  Installing fire alarms, smoke detectors and fire extinguishers together with a comprehensive fire safety plan will minimise the risk of fire taking hold, should it break out.

As fire safety awareness has grown, there has been an overall decrease in fires over the last decade or so.  Fire brigades are focussing more resources on fire prevention and advice on fitting smoke detectors and fire alarms. Fire Safety companies are also now serving the domestic sector as well as the commercial.

Installation of Fire Safety Equipment

No environment or area is immune from the risk of fire. Therefore, installation of early warning systems will maximise the chances of a safe escape. Alarms will sound loudly to warn people that fire or smoke has been detected.  Action can then be taken immediately to evacuate the building as safely as possible, and emergency services called.

Make an Action Plan

Compile a plan including safety routes out of the building, and the fire assembly point. Decide who should be responsible for the use of fire extinguishers if they are needed.  Whether you are at home or at work, share this information, and practice a drill; what could take minutes to practice could ultimately save lives.

If you employ 5 or more staff, you have a legal obligation to carry out a Fire Safety Risk Assessment.  Swift Fire & Safety have assessors qualified to do this; we will ensure your building meets the required standards, ensuring peace of mind.

Training

Knowing how to respond in the event of a fire is a valuable skill.  The actions of one person can have an impact on everyone around them and training will ensure that everybody knows what to do in an emergency situation.

Training should be continuous in order to stay up to date.  If your workplace has new staff, they will need to be trained, and refresher courses will be needed if your company moves premises.  Any change that affects the fire safety risk in your building will need to be addressed and appropriate training given.

Your duty of care is to the people within your building and by providing adequate training it ensures that everybody knows safety procedures, which will reduce the risk of injury, and even death, during a fire.  Your business will be protected, and a small fire could be contained, preventing it from becoming a huge blaze.

Fire and smoke damage can have huge financial consequences for any business. Can you afford to take any chances?

 

You can find more information about our fire alarm installation service here.

Top Causes of Fire in the Workplace

Fire isn’t necessarily the most common of accidents within the workplace, but if it happens, it can be deadly.  The devastation caused by flames ripping through your building can destroy years of work in only minutes.  The consequences of fires can be expensive for your company – the interruption to business with your premises potentially being uninhabitable, the cost of replacing stock and assets, not to mention the loss of valuable client records and information.

We have identified the most common causes of fire in the workplace, and what you can do to help prevent them.

Faulty electrics and electrical equipment

Loose wires, faulty connections, and overloaded plug sockets and extension leads can all result in electrical fires.  This type of fire is not just limited to office space; it can take hold in any work environment such as shops, warehouses, and workshops.  Because most businesses are reliant on even the smallest form of technology, there will always be the risk of unmaintained equipment becoming dangerous.

Business owners are legally required to take care of electrical equipment and regular PAT testing (portable appliance testing).  PAT testing is generally carried out between 12, 24 and 48 months depending on the type of equipment.  Because of the nature of electrical fires, these cannot be put out with water which makes them all the more hazardous.

It is imperative that you have the correct fire extinguishers installed by experts who will train you in their use.

Lack of training within your team

We all know that accidents happen through nobody’s fault. Equipment can burn out that is relatively new or in previously good working order.  Would you and your staff know how to deal with a fire at a moment’s notice? Or indeed, whether it could have been preventable in the first place.

If a fire should break out, it is essential that all staff are aware of the correct procedures.  As an employer it is your duty of care, and a legal requirement that your employees know the evacuation process.  Failure to comply could leave you with a lawsuit for negligence if the worst should happen.  You should appoint a fire safety monitor who will be responsible for taking any required remedial action (eg. the use of fire extinguishers) before the need for calling the emergency services.

Lack of Fire prevention equipment

The most basic of fire prevention equipment is the humble smoke detector.  It is, in most circumstances illegal to operate in a business premises without them. Maintenance and testing are essential to ensure they are in good working order at all times.

It is also a legal requirement in accordance with the Fire Safety Order to install the correct types of fire extinguisher suited to your business.  You may not be able to procure business insurance, or your current policy could be invalid without having a fire risk assessment carried out. Your assessor will advise you about the installation of fire extinguishers in appropriate areas of your building.  Your local Fire Safety company will be able to take care of this for you, one of the services which Swift Fire & Safety offer.

Incorrect storage of combustible materials

Failure to correctly store combustible and flammable materials is a huge contributor in the incidence of fires that could have been avoided.  For example, businesses that rely on power tools that could throw out sparks (welding or grinding equipment) should never have flammable materials close to the working areas.  The same can be said of chemicals which should never be near naked flames.

By ensuring that all materials are stored efficiently, the risk of fire is greatly reduced.  If your business holds large quantities of stock, such as paper products for example, it is essential that procedures are met, and that stock is stored immediately after delivery.

Negligence and/or human error

There are a number of scenarios whereby fire is caused by either negligence or human error.  Carelessly discarded items left close to heat sources, unattended food left to burn in the staff room or kitchen, cooling and fan vents on technical equipment blocked by office paraphernalia, using equipment incorrectly – the list is endless!  Every person in your employ should be responsible for their own health and safety and should be accountable for their actions, whether they are accidental or negligent.

Fire safety and Health and Safety courses are available and should be completed by your staff.  Your local fire safely officer will be able to help you find the appropriate course for your business which can often be completed online.

Arson

Sadly, arson is not as rare as we would like to believe.  Statistics suggest that over 45% of serious fires in the UK are caused by arson. Large industrial buildings and commercial businesses can be a target for vandals and other criminal activity.

Unfortunately, there is little that can be done to eliminate the risk of your business being targeted 100%, but there are measures that can be taken to make it less attractive to the criminal fraternity.  Identify where your building may be vulnerable and install a visible alarm system and CCTV.  These security systems are a considerable deterrent to would be criminals.

If you are concerned that these systems will not be enough of a deterrent, then an added layer of security could come in the form of an interior sprinkler system. Once activated, sprinklers greatly reduce the amount of damage caused if fire were to break out either by accident or criminal activity.

 

You can find out more about our Fire Extinguisher Installation and Maintenance services here.

How Training with Tavcom Created New Commercial Opportunities for Swift Fire & Safety

Here at Swift Fire & Safety, we have always relied on our reputation for quality service, resulting in a growing number of enquiries within the security related sector, and more notably intruder alarm systems.

Whilst this has presented an opportunity for us to accelerate our expansion, some of our team members didn’t possess the recognised qualifications for alarm systems that matched their fire credentials. Our Founder and Director, Daniel Youngs says: “It is a matter of pride and commitment to our customers, that we adhere to the highest standards for every service we provide. So, if we were to meet this customer demand, we needed to find the very best training provider for our team.”

On recommendation from several trusted advisors, Daniel approached Tavcom Training who are industry leaders in providing practical training courses to those ‘on the tools’, particularly in management, installation and design of security systems.

During an intensive five day course specialising in Practical Intruder Alarm Installation at Tavcom’s state of the art training centre, Daniel was awarded a BTEC Level 3 Certificate, giving him a skilled qualification in design, plan, installation, repair and maintenance of intruder alarm systems.

Daniel has more than 15 years’ experience and expertise within the fire sector and has undertaken a great deal of training.  He says: “I have participated in many courses but Tavcom sets the standard. It represents good value for money, ticked all of my boxes and filled the knowledge gaps I was missing.” He adds: “It has given us the confidence and credibility to respond positively to the requests regarding intruder alarms that we receive and already we have customers that are benefiting from our practical application of Tavcom’s teachings.”

Swift Fire & Safety are committed to providing a quality service and we credit our investment in training as one of the reasons for our excellent reputation. Daniel says of Tavcom: “It is our intention to take further advantage of all Tavcom has to offer, continuously improving our skills.” He concludes: “Training ensures we maintain the highest possible standards for our customers and at the same time opens doors to new opportunities to grow the business.”

 

You can find information about all of Swift Fire & Safety’s services here.

Photo credit: Tavcom Training