As an owner, landlord or manager of a public building you have a legal obligation to protect everyone within your property from the threat of fire. The mass of exacting laws and regulations, however, can be confusing (and expensive) for businesses and this can lead to owners not realising the importance of the legislation and instead viewing it as more government red tape.
Basic fire safety law
The current fire safety legislation in the UK is The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, which came into force on 1st October 2006. The Order replaces all previous fire regulations and was put in place to rationalise and simplify prior fire safety laws. It dictates that commercial and public properties, including hotels, leisure centres, retail outlets, offices and factories, should assign a ‘responsible person’. This is usually the owner or landlord and it is their responsibility to ensure all aspects of The Order are stringently adhered to.
Duties contained within The Order include installing all necessary fire safety equipment (such as fire alarms, fire extinguishers and safety signage); making sure everybody within the building understands evacuation procedures, meeting places and where the fire safety equipment is; ensuring any electrical appliances used in your workplace are safe and conform to PAT standards and undertaking employee fire safety training.
Additionally, one of the most important aspects of the Regulatory Reform Order is to regularly conduct Fire Risk Assessments. These detail any risks and hazards within your environment and are then followed by the implementation of remedial measures (such as those listed above) in order to eradicate or reduce these risks.
The cost of fire regulations
Health and safety regulations, including The Regulatory Reform Order, are often deemed as an inconvenience – in both time and money – to businesses. Research carried out by the Forum of Private Business, for example, found that small and medium sized businesses spend over £2 million each year complying with health and safety guidelines.
However, the cost of not conforming to fire regulations can be huge and far outweighs the cost of fulfilling them initially. Jack Wills, a high street fashion store, was fined £27,000 at the beginning of 2013 after breaching fire regulations at is York store. Similarly, an ASDA in Slough was ordered to pay more than £55,000 in fines and costs after breaching fire safety rules.
More shockingly, a roofing company from South Wales has recently been order to pay more than £21 million in damages for its part in fire which devastated a West Midlands factory and two landlords in Manchester were handed three month prison sentences in 2011 after flouting serious fire safety regulations at flats they owned in Hale.
What does it mean for your business?
In order to fulfil all necessary regulations within your business, it is vital to first undertake a comprehensive Risk Assessment. Sometimes a very complex task, fire safety specialists recommend hiring an expert who can then also undertake any remedial action necessary, such as the installation of a fire alarm system or the suggestion of fire safety training.
Whichever way you go about it, it is vital that your business does not ignore its legal obligations or dismiss them as unnecessary – The Order is ultimately designed to save lives and complying with it will save your business an extortionate amount of money!
City Fire Protection & Maintenance Services LLP are fire safety experts in the heart of London