Ask Gavin: I’m worried my workplace isn’t fire safe. Help!

  • Health & Safety
Man in suit posing
Gavin Scarr-Hall - Director of Health & Safety at Peninsula

Gavin Scarr Hall, Director of Health and Safety

(Last updated )

Whenever a staff issue comes up, Peninsula advisers are on hand to help. There’s no query too big, too small, or too bizarre for our experts to unpack.

So, if you’re sitting on a query, don’t hesitate to ask. It’s what keeps our Peninsula clients safe and successful all year round and gives them the peace of mind to focus on their business.

This caller had concerns about fire safety in their workplace. So they asked Gavin Scarr Hall, Peninsula’s Director of Health & Safety, for expert advice.

Here’s what they had to say…

Hi Gavin,

I recently set up my own café – it’s a very small start-up business and I’m just in the process of recruiting more staff. I heard recently that the fire safety regulations have changed. I’ll be honest I don’t really understand a lot of the legislation but I want to make sure I’m not putting anyone at risk.

I got told that I didn’t have to carry out a fire risk assessment before but now I do? I don’t know where to start and I’m worried my workplace isn’t fire safe, so if you could walk me through it all that would be great.

Cheers.

-Anon.

Gavin’s reply was…

Hi Anon,

Thanks for reaching out. First of all, congratulations on your new business. This must be an exciting time for you. I fully appreciate that legislative changes are complex and when you’re just starting out, it’s a lot to keep on top of.

Secondly, you are correct. The fire safety rules have changed – as of 1st October 2023. And yes, you do have to carry out a fire risk assessment by law.

"I got told that I didn’t have to carry out a fire risk assessment before but now I do?"

It might be the case that you were told you didn’t have to do an assessment before because you employed less than five people.

Prior to October, you didn’t have to complete a written fire risk assessment unless you had over five employees. But this is no longer the case. Every business now has to complete a full fire risk assessment of their workplace and put it in writing too.

So, this is where you’ll need to start.

"I’m worried my workplace isn’t fire safe"

The first step to carrying out a fire risk assessment is choosing the person who’s going to be responsible for fire safety in your workplace. This could be yourself or another employee. It may even be multiple people sharing this responsibility, including the building owner or manager.

Legally, every person who is responsible for fire safety in your work premises must know about each other. So, you’ll need to make sure that everyone is clear on who they’re sharing responsibility with. And if at any point a responsible person changes, for example a business manager leaves, there would need to be a formal fire safety handover to a new person.

Now if your work building contains residential units, you have an additional fire safety duty. You’ll need to make sure you (or whoever is responsible) cooperate with any accountable people at the premises while carrying out fire safety duties.

The government’s official definition of an accountable person is “an organisation or individual who owns or has a legal obligation to repair any common parts of the building.” So, this could be the owner of your building or your building management company.

I cover more on the fire safety regulations of residential buildings in my blog: New fire safety regulations: do they affect you? if you’d like to read up more on that.

Okay so that’s that bit. Now, when you do your fire risk assessment, you’ll also need to make sure you have a “competent person” present. This is a person with specialist fire safety training under their belt and the knowledge and experience needed for the assessment. You should never attempt to do one without a competent person being involved.

"I don’t know where to start"

As for the assessment itself, HSE specifies five steps you should take:

  1. Identify any hazards – so, you should first find any potential objects or activities in your workplace that could start a fire and what could burn.
  2. Identify who would be at risk – so, this may include employees and customers. Also consider anyone who is vulnerable, for example, a person with a disability.
  3. Once you’ve evaluated the hazards and people at risk in your workplace, you can consider ways to remove or reduce the risks.
  4. Keep a record of the risks you identified and any steps you took to mitigate them. Then, make a clear fire safety plan and make sure everyone in your workplace understands what to do in the event of a fire.
  5. Review your fire risk assessment regularly and update it with any site changes.

"I want to make sure I’m not putting anyone at risk"

Alongside your risk assessment, you’ll need to make sure you have fire safety measures in place. This should include fire safety signage, fire alarms, well-lit escape routes, fire extinguishers, fire safety training for staff, and making sure you have fire doors that are fit for purpose.

As you can see there’s a lot to consider, so I would recommend speaking to a Health & Safety expert directly if you’d like a full rundown of what you need to do.

We do operate a 24-hr advice line and you’re welcome to book in for a free consultation. We can also arrange for our experts to visit you in person to guide you through essential fire safety practices, so you can feel confident your workplace is safe from harm.

Just tap below to book a free advice call and we can arrange this for you.

All the best,

Gavin

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