Where to start?- Business fire safety

It can be very daunting if you are running a business to have to think about fire safety. It is easy when you don’t know how to approach something to put it off. Some people just don’t realise that the law applies to their particular role or business.

Who does the law apply to?

These are a few of the examples where people don’t always realise the law applies to them

  • Providers of self catering accommodation (includes caravans, hostels and bunkhouses)
  • Charities and voluntary organisations occupying a building
  • Landlords of multi occupied buildings who responsible for communal areas
  • A contractor who has some control over premises
  • Small businesses renting a building
  • Small businesses with very few employees
  • If you run a business from home, this includes businesses such as childminding services

If you are unsure contact your local fire and rescue service and ask.

What is expected of an employer?

  • You are required to carry out a fire risk assessment and review it regularly. If you have over 5 employees this must be a written risk assessment or if the business requires a licence or registration (bars or care homes) this must be written.
  • You must make sure you have a means of detecting fire, give warning in event of a fire, some means of fighting fire, plans for actions to be taken if a fire occurs and a means of escape.
  • Make sure fire equipment and facilities are maintained and in good working order
  • Provide information and training to staff. Any people working on site such as contractors must also have safety information
  • Create an emergency plan – so you know what to do if an incident should occur in your business or a nearby premises

These are the basic outlines of an employers obligations.

As a starting point there are various guides for business which you can readily access. Click here to find one which would be suitable for your business, the cover a range from animal premises and stables to cinemas.

Each guide has information on how to perform a suitable fire risk assessment. If anything in the business changes then the risk assessment will need reviewing. This could be anything from additional employees (even if they are temporary), age of employees especially if they are under 18, changes to the premises, even changes in stock levels. Don’t forget that when performing a risk assessment also try and address anything which may make your business an easy target for arson, this could be as simple as where and how much rubbish you store. There will be advice about reducing this risk later in Business Safety Week.

If you feel there are no changes in your business throughout the year we would still suggest an annual review.

If you have a large business (as a guide we would say over 20 employees) your business is complex (this could mean unusual building layout or heritage building) or you are likely to have many people on site (lots of customers for example) or you are just not comfortable with this then get help.

Where to go for help?

Your fire and rescue service want to help. Don’t feel they can’t be approached even if you know you are currently not complying. They cannot undertake the risk assessment for you but they will help you with advice and may be able to help in identifying competent help.

Many fire services offer free of charge drop in sessions or workshops which may be useful to you. Find your local fire and rescue service here and check their website for business safety advice.

You can employ a competent person or a fire risk assessor. Take some time to find the right one. It is the duty holder or employers responsibility to ensure an suitable risk assessment has been undertaken and the person performing it was competent.

There are no specific qualifications but they should demonstrate the following:

  • Understand the relevant fire safety legislation
  • Have appropriate education, training, knowledge and experience in the principles of fire safety
  • Have an understanding of fire development and the behaviour of people in fire
  • Understand the fire hazards, fire risks and relevant factors associated with occupants at special risk within the buildings of the type in question
  • Have appropriate training and/or experience in carrying out fire risk assessments

Things to consider to ensure the competence of a Fire Risk Assessor

  • Can they demonstrate evidence of compliance with the competency criteria set down by the Fire Risk Assessment Competency Council?
  • Have they experience of working for your kind of business and premises?
  • Be clear about the scope of the work to be carried out and ensure that the assessor is provided with access to all areas of the premises and with relevant information.
  • Obtain alternative quotes – make sure they all cover the same scope, so you can draw a proper comparison.
  • It is advisable to request references from previous clients in similar premises types; ask them if they were satisfied and if any problems were later identified by the Fire and Rescue Authority.
  • It is advisable to ask for proof that they have sufficient professional indemnity insurance and to seek assurance that the contractor is impartial and has a complaints procedure.
  • Keep and maintain records of the steps you took in selecting your fire risk assessor.

The following document can help you find the right help for your business

A Guide to Choosing a Competent Fire Risk Assessor – Version 2 published 29th April 2014 (2)

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