Under the Fire Safety Order 2005, all businesses are required to carry out a fire risk assessment of their premises to ensure that their staff are protected.
The regulation came into force in October 2006 and applies to all non-domestic properties in England and Wales.
It is essential that those responsible for a business premises, whether they are an employer or self-employed, follow the rules to avoid damage to property, injuries or even deaths in their workplace.
Assessments comprise three forms that must be produced whenever an inspecting officer from a local fire authority pays a visit to the premises, otherwise property owners could face hefty fines.
These are the risk assessment itself, an emergency action plan detailing the steps that should be taken if a fire does break out and a fire log book for recording information about fire safety.
First off all, businesses need to appoint a responsible person or persons to arrange the fire risk assessment, identify potential fire hazards and deal with them appropriately.
Hazards include anything that could start a fire, such as heaters or cookers, anything that could burn quickly, like textiles and waste, and anything that could intensify a fire, such as air conditioning units or commercial oxygen supplies.
Where possible, these hazards should be removed or minimised by putting fire safety procedures in place and making sure staff are fully aware of them.
The next step of the assessment is to identify at risk people, such as those working close to the hazards notified, those working in isolated areas and elderly or disabled people.
A plan should then be drawn up to deal with any fires that do occur to ensure staff can be evacuated quickly and calmly via main exits or fire escapes. Floor plans and drawings of the premises can come in particularly handy at this point.
To comply with the regulation, businesses need to have appropriate fire safety equipment, including fully-functional detection and warning systems and fire-fighting equipment.
Alarm systems must be audible to everyone in the building, wherever they are, and there should be one fire extinguisher for every 200 square metres within the premises.
Fire drills need to be carried out on a regular basis to make sure employees are aware of the action to take in an emergency and the results should be recorded in fire log books for future reference.
Training can help these drills go smoothly, so businesses should let all staff know how to evacuate, where to go and who to report to.
They should also be told how to raise alarms, contact emergency services and use extinguishers and other equipment should they come across a fire.
Of course, not all fires start accidentally and businesses may also need to factor the risk of arson into their fire safety plans.
Sound security measures can be one way to prevent attacks on the premises, but property owners should also be vigilant to any suspicious activity happening near the building or in the local area, informing police where necessary.
For small or newly-formed businesses, complying with regulations can feel like an uphill struggle, but the consequences of failing to do so can be severe.
Fortunately there are tools that can help firms by showing them where to start and what to do next. The Fire Risk Assessment Kit from Lawpack contains all the template forms and background information companies will need to carry out risk assessments and log their findings.
Using the Fire Risk Assessment Kit can also enable businesses to reduce the cost of regulatory compliance by eliminating the need for a solicitor.
Posted by Christopher Evans
Published on: August 24, 2010