If you’re reading this blog post, then you’d like to know whether fire safety audits are compulsory. The quick answer is yes, they are, and they may even occur with no notice whatsoever. But the long answer will explain the nature of fire-safety audits/inspections and why they are carried out. This blog post will be useful to managers, managing directors, and any other Responsible Persons as defined by The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
Regular Fire Safety Inspections
Fire and Rescue Services (FRS) carry out regular fire safety inspections on businesses based in high-risk non-domestic premises. The purpose of these inspections is to make sure there is limited risk to life, so your local FRS will decide whether or not your premises is classed as high-risk based on fire sources and if your business provides sleeping accommodation, as is the case with hotels, hostels, care homes, hospitals, etc. If you are unsure whether your workplace should be considered a high-risk premises, then you can talk to your local FRS authority or you can make all the precautions you’d make if your business was considered high-risk. Ultimately, going beyond what is required of you by your local FRS is the best way to keep your business safe from legal penalties and safe from fire.
It’s also worth noting that fire safety enforcement officers have the right to enter your premises at a reasonable hour without giving any notice. However, they may give you notice if they want to or if they think it’s appropriate.
Are You the Responsible Person in Your Workplace
As referenced in the Regulatory Reform Order 2005 above, the term ‘Responsible Person’ (RP) was brought in to clarify exactly who is responsible for workplace fire safety. It states that the main RP is the person who has control of the premises, I.E. the boss or manager. And if there is no responsible person in the business, then whoever owns the property becomes the responsible person. This clarification simply states that the boss or managing director of a company is ultimately responsible, and if, for whatever reason, no one is in the premises, the building’s landlord is responsible.
There is also an additional option in place that allows company owners to delegate fire safety responsibility either to someone more qualified for the job, or someone with more time to carry out the various fire-safety duties. This person is usually called the ‘fire-safety officer’.
Making Fire-Safety Changes
Whether you’re the landlord, the business owner, or the fire-safety officer, you will be responsible for carrying out any safety changes asked of you by the FRS. These changes will be given to you after a fire-safety audit and they may include photographs of your premises, detailed guidelines to ensure your premises meet fire-safety guidelines, and anything else the enforcement officer thinks is appropriate.
The fire safety enforcement officer will decide which action to take if they find a breach in fire-safety law. Obviously, the nature of the action and potential penalty will depend on how dangerous the breach is. If the breach is serious, the enforcement officer will issue an enforcement notice, giving the RP at least 21 days to change the premises so that it complies with fire-safety law. As the RP, if you think you have a case, you can appeal to magistrate’s court. However, as long as the changes they’ve asked for are clearly fair, then it is much better to treat them as a push to make your workplace even safer. You may simply need to ensure there is less flammable clutter close to heat sources, such as printers, machines, computers, etc. Or you may have to make a more significant change, such as installing a new fire escape. Don’t be afraid to talk to the enforcement officer; ask them what it would take to make them satisfied that your workplace complies with fire-safety law. You may even have to install one of K and D Systems’ fire curtains, or our fire shutters. These systems are automated, and they are triggered by a smoke alarm. Once the alarm has been triggered, they close down over an area and slow down the spread of fire for up to 2 hours. This can be more than enough time for the fire service to arrive and deal with the fire before it spreads any further.
We hope this guide has helped demystify fire safety audits. Although helpful and well-informed, this guide should only supplement any wider fire-safety research carried by the Responsible Persons in any workplace.