Compliance is still the key to fire safety
Reform may be on the way – but current legislation needs to be respected and enforced
TRAGEDY often brings about change, both in material ways and also in perception and outlook. Recent terrible events in the UK are serving to provide a catalyst for material change in fire safety, but it will require an upheaval of truly seismic proportions to transform the mindset of so many people who still see safety rules generally either as an encumbrance or simply ‘not their problem’.
What can businesses and organisations learn from tragic incidents? And how can owners, directors and organisational leaders be persuaded to meet their responsibility for implementing vital safety measures necessary to prevent the serious spread of fire? While there is much debate at the moment about building regulations and systemic failures, it is important for us to consider our existing laws and, in particular, the key current fire regulation set out in the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
The Fire Safety Order lays down the requirements clearly. It also tells you who is responsible for fire safety on premises and what they must do to ensure the safety of staff, occupants and members of the public. The ‘responsible person’ in legal terms is clearly defined. The Order states: “Any person who has some level of control in premises must take reasonable steps to reduce the risk from fire and make sure people can safely escape if there is a fire.”
Responsibility defined in law
Anyone who has control of premises or some level of control is a ‘responsible person’. This includes:
• The employer for those parts of premises staff may enter;
• The owner, landlord or managing agent for common or shared parts of premises or shared fire alarm systems and fire safety equipment;
• The occupier or tenant or any other person who has some level of control over a part of the premises.
You are responsible for fire safety in business or other non-domestic premises if you are:
• An employer
• The owner
• The landlord
• A managing agent
• An occupier or tenant
• Anyone else with control (eg facilities / building / site manager)
• A person with paying guests (eg running a bed and breakfast / guesthouse or letting a self-catering property)
• If there is more than one ‘responsible person’, you have to work together to meet your responsibilities
As the responsible person you must:
• Carry out a fire risk assessment of the premises and review it regularly
• Tell staff or their representatives about the risks you’ve identified
• Put in place, and maintain, appropriate fire safety measures
• Plan for an emergency
• Provide staff information, fire safety instruction and training
Respect and enforcement
While tragedy makes us review everything that has gone before and is currently in place, we must take into account the possibility that we may well have fair, intelligent and robustly designed legislation – but it is not being respected, monitored or enforced. It is this gross failure that makes the law ineffective and encourages endemic ignorance and avoidance of safety measures which ultimately costs lives.
This is something that everyone should consider carefully. Safety law must be respected by those responsible and enforced by those who are given the critical task. The solution is most often in our own hands.
Compliance is still the key.