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Fire Safety: A Guide to Managing Fire Risks at Work

This British Safety Council guidance document sets out some general advice on employers’ duties under UK fire safety law. It highlights the serious risks that fires in industrial, commercial and public premises and sites can pose in terms of death and injury to the building’s occupants, neighbouring people and the firefighters who are called to tackle them.

Fires can also cause extensive damage to a premises and in some cases the company or site may be forced to close due to the extent of the damage and the associated costs.

Therefore, those in control of workplace buildings and sites have a legal duty to reduce the risk of a fire occurring and to protect people from being injured or killed in fires. This means identifying fire hazards, eliminating or reducing fire risks and ensuring people can safely escape if a fire breaks out.

The main piece of fire safety legislation that applies to industrial, commercial and public buildings and sites in England and Wales is the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

Similar legislation applies in Scotland in the shape of the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 and in Northern Ireland in the form of the Fire Safety Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2010. Under the Order, a 'responsible person' in control of the premises or site and/or the activities and equipment within it – such as the employer, occupier, owner, landlord or managing agent – is charged with ensuring that adequate fire safety precautions and measures are put in place and maintained at the premises. The aim is to prevent fires occurring and to eliminate or minimise the risk of injury or loss of life from a fire as far as is reasonably practicable.

There are other relevant duties under health and safety law that both mirror other relevant duties under health and safety law that both mirror and build on the requirements of the fire safety rules, such as the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

The guidance also highlights recent and forthcoming changes following the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017. The Fire Safety Act 2021 is covered, which will allow the governments in England and Wales to introduce future new regulations that introduce tougher fire safety duties under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety Order) 2005 on those in control of various types of business and domestic premises. Further information is given.

The guide also covers:

  • complying with fire safety law in workplaces

  • fire hazards

  • assessing fire risks

  • fire detection and warning

  • systems, and fire-fighting equipment

  • fire escape routes

  • fire signs and notices

  • maintenance

  • emergency plans

  • information and training

  • arson.

It is available in full here.

British Safety Council July 2021

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