Fire Safety Order
Following the successful prosecution of an Isle of Wight landlord, resulting in fines totalling £79,900.00, Graham Orchard, protection manager for the Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service, said: “The fire on 21 May 2014 involving flats in Ventnor, could easily have resulted in an even more serious outcome. The Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service is here to advise and provide guidance to responsible persons to comply with national fire safety laws.
“However, in the most serious cases where there are major breaches which may place people at risk of death or serious injury, we will enforce the law by prohibiting the use of premises and prosecuting those who have failed to ensure that the premises are safe. The seriousness of the breaches in this case is reflected in the judge’s comments and in the fines imposed.
“All owners, managers and responsible persons for flats and houses of multiple occupation, whether conversions or purpose-built, should be aware of their responsibilities under the Fire Safety Order. Guidance is available below.
Fire Safety Law and Guidance for Business
Do you know your responsibilities?
The Fire Safety Order (Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005) came into force on 1 October 2006.
This Order affects all non-domestic premises and replaces previous fire safety legislation. Any fire certificate issued under the Fire Precautions Act 1971 will cease to have any effect.
The Fire Safety Order applies to all non-domestic premises in England and Wales, including the common parts of blocks of flats and houses in multiple occupation (HMO’s). It covers general fire precautions and other fire safety duties which are needed to protect ‘relevant persons’ in case of fire in and around most ‘premises’. The Order requires fire precautions to be put in place ‘where necessary’ and to the extent that it is reasonable and practicable in the circumstances of the case.
Responsibility for complying with the Order rests with the ‘responsible person’. In a workplace, this is the employer and any other person who may have control of any part of the premises, e.g. the occupier or owner. In all other premises the person or people in control of the premises will be responsible. If there is more than one responsible person in any type of premises (e.g. a multi-occupied complex), all must take all reasonable steps to co-operate and co-ordinate with each other. If you are the responsible person you must carry out a fire risk assessment which must focus on the safety in case of fire of all ‘relevant persons’. It should pay particular attention to those at special risk, such as disabled people, those who you know have special needs and young persons and must include consideration of any dangerous substance liable to be on the premises. Your fire risk assessment will help you identify risks that can be removed or reduced and to decide the nature and extent of the general fire precautions you need to take.
If your organisation employs five or more people, your premises are licensed or an alterations notice is in force, you must record the significant findings of the assessment. It is good practice to record your significant findings in any case.
There are some other fire safety duties you need to comply with: ·
- You must appoint one or more competent persons, depending on the size and use of your premises, to carry out any of the preventive and protective measures required by the Order (you can nominate yourself for this purpose). A competent person is someone with enough training and experience or knowledge and other qualities to be able to implement these measures properly.
- You must provide your employees with clear and relevant information on the risks to them identified by the fire risk assessment, about the measures you have taken to prevent fires, and how these measures will protect them if a fire breaks out.
- You must consult your employees (or their elected representatives) about nominating people to carry out particular roles in connection with fire safety and about proposals for improving the fire precautions.
- You must, before you employ a child, provide a parent with clear and relevant information on the risks to that child identified by the risk assessment, the measures you have put in place to prevent/protect them from fire and inform any other responsible person of any risks to that child arising from their undertaking.
- You must inform non-employees, such as temporary or contract workers, of the relevant risks to them, and provide them with information about who are the nominated competent persons, and about the fire safety procedures for the premises.
- You must co-operate and co-ordinate with other responsible persons who also have premises in the building, inform them of any significant risks you find and how you will seek to reduce/control those risks which might affect the safety of their employees.
- You must provide the employer of any person from an outside organisation who is working in your premises (e.g. an agency providing temporary staff) with clear and relevant information on the risks to those employees and the preventive and protective measures taken.
- You must also provide those employees with appropriate instructions and relevant information about the risks to them.
- If you are not the employer but have any control of premises which contain more than one workplace, you are also responsible for ensuring that the requirements of the Order are complied with in those parts over which you have control.
- You must consider the presence of any dangerous substances and the risk this presents to relevant persons from fire.
- You must establish a suitable means of contacting the emergency services and provide them with any relevant information about dangerous substances.
- You must provide appropriate information, instruction and training to your employees, during their normal working hours, about the fire precautions in your workplace, when they start working for you, and from time to time throughout the period they work for you.
- You must ensure that the premises and any equipment provided in connection with firefighting, fire detection and warning, or emergency routes and exits are covered by a suitable system of maintenance and are maintained by a competent person in an efficient state, in efficient working order and in good repair.
- Your employees must co-operate with you to ensure the workplace is safe from fire and its effects, and must not do anything that will place themselves or other people at risk. The above examples outline some of the main requirements of the Order.
Who enforces the Fire Safety Order?
The enforcing authority, the local fire and rescue authority (the fire and rescue service) will have the power to inspect your premises to check that you are complying with your duties under the Order. They will look for evidence that you have carried out a suitable fire risk assessment and acted upon the significant findings of that assessment. If you are required to record the outcome of the assessment they will expect to see a copy. If the enforcing authority is dissatisfied with the outcome of your fire risk assessment or the action you have taken, they may issue an enforcement notice that requires you to make certain improvements or, in extreme cases, a prohibition notice that restricts the use of all or part of your premises until improvements are made. If your premises are considered by the enforcing authority to be or have potential to be high risk, they may issue an alterations notice that requires you to inform them before you make any changes to your premises or the way they are used. Failure to comply with any duty imposed by the Order or any notice issued by the enforcing authority is an offence. You have a right of appeal to a magistrate’s court against any notice issued. Where you agree that there is a need for improvements to your fire precautions but disagree with the enforcing authority on the technical solution to be used (e.g. what type of fire alarm system is needed) you may agree to refer this for independent determination.
If you are in any doubt about how fire safety law applies to you, contact the fire safety department. New buildings or significant building alterations should be designed to satisfy current building regulations (which address fire precautions). However, you will still need to carry out a fire risk assessment, or review your existing assessment (and act on your findings), to comply with the Order.
To download or buy a series of HM Government guide books, visit their website by clicking here.
Blocks of flats are included, among many other types of residential premises, in the ‘Fire safety risk assessment: sleeping accommodation’, Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) guide. This guide should be referred to for properties that have been converted into flats.
Guidance to assist housing providers, enforcing authorities and other responsible persons to comply with the Fire Safety Order and the Housing Act 2004, tailored to purpose-built blocks of flats, can be found in ‘Fire safety in purpose-built blocks of flats’, published by The Local Government Group. Copies are available for download at:
For information on fire safety in purpose-built flats, visit the Local Government Association website by clicking here.
To view 'A short guide to making your premises safe from fire', please click here (PDF, 1,006.83KB, 16 pages).
For more information on the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, visit the www.legislation.gov.uk website.
Electrical Safety in the Home, Industry and Business
An increasing amount of the fires attended by the Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service are caused by electrical faults. This may be due to the numbers of appliances and equipment now present in our homes and businesses since the beginning of the electronic age and advancement in modern technology. Advice and guidance, as well as current news and real life stories, can be found on the Electrical Safety Councils website.
The Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service insist that electrical safety is treated seriously - where in doubt consult a qualified electrical engineer.