In your capacity as a business owner or manager, it might seem perfectly understandable to you why achieving compliance with the various legislation surrounding fire safety may not exactly be at the top of your priority list.
After all, the chances are that you will be continuously occupied with your core business right now, as part of your ambition to achieve sustained profit or provide the optimal service to clients or customers.
You might have also procrastinated on the subject of fire safety compliance in your workplace, perhaps due to a perception that fire safety legislation is complex, multi-layered, and beyond your own expertise.
Alas, all of these are mere excuses – and not very acceptable ones from a legal standpoint – when it comes to the imperative matter of keeping your organisation’s buildings and personnel safe from the risk of fire.
You may not see fire safety compliance as your highest priority as a business owner or manager, but the fire safety inspectors whose responsibility it is to enforce the relevant legislation, most definitely do. And if your premises are visited by inspectors who discover that your business is non-compliant, the financial penalties levied in response to this could put your entire organisation’s future at risk.
So, even putting aside what should be the obvious moral justification for striving for the highest standards of fire safety compliance, even mere knowledge of the legal and financial implications of non-compliance should be enough to spur you into action.
Here are the steps that your organisation can take to ensure it is compliant with the regulatory requirements in relation to fire safety.
Who is responsible for fire safety in the workplace?
As outlined by the UK Government, if – for any given commercial or non-domestic premises – you are an employer, the owner, the landlord, an occupier, or anyone else who has control of the given premises, it is you who will be responsible for fire safety at that premises.
Examples of other people who may have control of a given workplace – and who will therefore have responsibility for fire safety at the given site – include the facilities manager, building manager, managing agent, or risk assessor.
If the above describes you, it is you who will have the status of ‘responsible person’ for fire safety at the specific premises. However, as the aforementioned information also implies, it is possible for a particular workplace to have more than one ‘responsible person’. These ‘responsible persons’ will therefore need to work together in order to meet their fire safety obligations.
What are the fire safety regulations and standards?
As a ‘responsible person’ at your workplace, you will hopefully already be aware of – and well-informed on – the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order Act 2005, or RRO. This piece of legislation – also often referred to as simply ‘the Fire Safety Order’ – is the main one to be aware of if you are responsible for fire safety compliance at a given premises in England or Wales.
The RRO came into force on 1 October 2006, and since that time, has been applicable to almost every building, place or structure that isn’t an individual private home, such as a family home or an individual flat in a block. In fact, even the shared areas in houses in multiple occupation (HMO), blocks of flats and maisonettes are subject to the Fire Safety Order.
While the Fire Safety Order is the primary fire safety legislation in England and Wales, responsible persons must also be mindful of other Health and Safety Executive (HSE) legislation and the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH).
What are the main fire safety requirements?
As the ‘responsible person’ for your workplace, you will be expected to undertake various duties in accordance with fire safety law. These will include:
- Undertaking a fire risk assessment of the commercial premises for which you are responsible, and arranging for it to be reviewed at regular intervals or immediately following any reasonably significant changes to design, occupants or use of the building.
- Informing staff or their representatives about the risks you have identified
- Implementing and maintaining suitable fire safety measures
- Planning for an emergency
- Providing staff information, fire safety instruction, and training
The carrying out of a fire risk assessment, otherwise often called an ‘FRA’, is one of the best-known measures expected from responsible persons.
If you are a responsible person, you don’t necessarily need to undertake the FRA personally; you can pass the task itself to another competent person. Nonetheless, in the eyes of the law, it will still be your responsibility to meet the requirements of the Fire Safety Order.
There are various elements of a successful FRA, encompassing the following steps:
- Identifying fire safety hazards
- Identifying people at risk
- Evaluating, removing or reducing, and protecting from risk
- Recording, planning, informing, instructing and training
- Regularly reviewing the FRA, and making any changes that may be necessary over time
Whatever exact measures you put in place at your premises to ensure your compliance with fire safety legislation, a guiding principle must be to do everything you reasonably and practicably can to make sure everyone on-site, or nearby, will be able to escape safely in the event of a fire breaking out.
Particular attention should be paid to people who may have a disability or otherwise need special help, as these individuals could be at particular risk if a fire does occur. Also note that your fire safety measures should be designed to help protect everyone who could conceivably be on the premises in the event of a fire – encompassing not only employees, but also visitors and members of the public.
How can software help you manage your fire safety compliance?
Can you keep on top of the above responsibilities using manual methods such as pen and paper, or even computer spreadsheets? This may be technically possible, but these arrangements can also be very prone to costly and dangerous errors, inaccuracies and wasted time.
Plus, as of the early 2020s, dedicated fire risk management software is becoming more and more accessible, functional, and sophisticated. You might therefore be likelier today than ever before, to consider the merits of a comprehensive cloud-based solution such as our own Vision Pro platform.
With its features encompassing the likes of Vision-tag technology for the recording, monitoring and maintenance of emergency equipment, exits and assets, a current PAS 79 audit template with 2021 updates (or even your own bespoke template) with embedded fire risk assets, and clear and easy-to-use dashboards as part of the live database, Vision Pro represents an extremely well-rounded form of fire risk management software.
To find out more about how this software could be a key weapon in your own armoury as you seek to achieve impeccable standards of fire safety compliance, please do not hesitate to reach out to the Vision Pro team today.