Fire safety

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Peninsula Group, HR and Health & Safety Experts

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Fire safety at work is an essential issue your business has to address. Read this guide so you can limit risks, help your staff, and protect your organisation.

Every workplace must be fully compliant when it comes to fire safety.

These legal duties can include all sorts of things - from mapping out fire exits to maintaining fire extinguishers.

Employers must comply with all fire prevention legislation. If you don't, you could risk facing workplace injuries, negligence claims, and even business closure.

In this guide, we'll look at fire safety, who's responsible for it, and how to protect employees from the risks.

What is fire safety in the workplace?

Fire safety is about having steps in place that help reduce the destruction caused by fires.

It involves practices, training, and legal compliance relating to fires. In the end, employers know exactly what to do in the event of a fire.

Many of us don't consider how easily fires can start. That's why fire prevention must be taken seriously. If not, you could risk the safety of employees, and anyone found in your workplace.

What are the laws on fire safety in the workplace?

Every UK business must comply with general fire safety regulations. This includes:

The Fire Safety Act 2021

The Fire Safety Act is a law that specifically focuses on building development. For example, making sure proper steps were followed for wall structures, window placements, cladding, etc.

If an employer owns their work building, the maintenance responsibility will primarily fall on them - and then health & safety inspectors. But even if you don't own the building, you still need to comply with fire safety rules.

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 also applies to buildings.

The act covers legal requirements for every structure, location, and building (excluding private residences, like flats and homes).

It also covers the roles of your local Fire Safety Enforcement Officers (EOs). They're legally allowed to enter any workplace in the event of a fire.

EOs can also conduct inspections based on your business's work activities, risk assessments, and other fire management areas. They're also able to enforce fines and penalties based on any legal breaches they find on your work premises.

The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 (HSWA)

The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 (HSWA) states every business has a legal requirement to provide a secure work environment.

HSWA covers major health & safety obligations that protect employees during work. This includes providing the right training without facing accidents or injuries.

This duty also extends to any non-employees found on your work premises. For example, customers, clients, and even the general public.

How to manage fire safety in the workplace

Every business needs to provide a safe and secure workplace environment. This includes preventing fires at all costs.

Without proper procedures in place, you risk seriously harming people. Employees may even decide to raise negligence claims - resulting in detrimental penalties, like compensation, closure, and even criminal charges.

That's why it's important to know how to manage fire safety at work. Let's take a look at ways to do this:

Assign a responsible person

When it comes to workplace safety, the ultimate responsibility falls on the employer. However, you can assign this responsibility to a competent person.

This responsible person must have relevant training and knowledge needed to manage workplace safety - including fire risks. Like, storing flammable materials and liquids to minimise fire risk.

Carry out fire risk assessment

If you hire five or more employees, you must carry out fire risk assessments. (However, if you have less than five, you may still need to demonstrate how to manage fire safety).

These written assessments help identify and reduce fire risks. For example, a fire risk assessment should cover how to keep fire fighting equipment. They need to be placed correctly - without obstructions and in clear view.

Fire risk assessments must be carried out on an annual basis; and after specific incidents. Some results may even need to be reported to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Appoint suitable fire marshals

Along with the responsible person, you should also appoint fire marshals. (They're also known as fire wardens).

Their job is to help evacuate the building in the event of a fire. They may be trained to put out small fires, but this should ideally fall on fire rescue authorities. They can even help carry out your fire risk assessment, too.

The key responsibilities for fire marshals include:

  • Checking emergency exit routes and fire doors.
  • Ensuring fire extinguishers and smoke alarms are properly installed.
  • Presenting fire safety signs and informative posters.
  • Organising fire drills and evacuation training.
  • Keeping general housekeeping for fire alarms and call points.

Provide fire training to all employees

Employers have a legal duty to provide their employees with proper fire safety training. This isn't only applicable to fire marshals or the person responsible for workplace safety.

Fire training is all about knowing how to work safely. It's about preventing risks and injuries related to the workplace. For example, making sure all electrical equipment is PAT tested to help avoid risks.

Fire wardens should also have a Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan (PEEP) to assist vulnerable people during a fire. This includes those who cannot evacuate the building by themselves; either because they’re pregnant, have disabilities, or are limited by mobility.

Follow legal duties as a building-owner

When employers own their work building, they have specific fire safety legislation and duties to adhere to. Some legal responsibilities include:

  • Carrying out fire risk assessments on a regular basis.
  • Informing employees about potential fire hazards.
  • Implementing fire prevention measures. 
  • Mapping out fire emergency exits and routes.
  • Considering all fire risks linked to building work or extensions.

Get expert advice on fire safety with Peninsula

Every employer should fully know how to prevent a fire occurring on their premises.

If you neglect this legal duty, you could face expensive fines, business closure, and potentially criminal charges.

Peninsula offers expert advice on fire safety. Our HR team offers 24/7 HR employment advice which is available 365 days a year. They can help you establish legal compliance at your own pace.

Want to find out more? Seek advice from one of our HR consultants. For further support, call our telephone number 0800 051 3629.

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