is-your-business-fire-safety-compliant - Communicate UK

IS YOUR BUSINESS FIRE SAFETY COMPLIANT?




We had a chat with our Managing Director, Andrew Miller, about what the compulsory Fire Safety regulations are for businesses across the UK. 

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Keeping on the right side of the law!

As the Managing Director of a busy BAFE Accredited Fire Installation Company I am often out on the road talking to customers.  One of the first things my customer asks is whether fire safety is relevant for their business.  The short answer is YES every time! 

All legislation regarding fire safety in business or non-domestic premises in England and Wales are incorporated in The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (the RRO for short) which was made under the Regulatory Reform act 2001. 

In layman’s terms any person who has some level of control in business or non-domestic premises must take reasonable steps to reduce the risk from fire and make sure people have a means of safe escape if a fire occurs.

There are a number of steps I recommend my customers go through to ensure their business complies with the law:

  1. Assign a Responsible Person
  2. Deliver an on-site Risk Assessment
  3. Installation of a Fire Alarm System which supports the Risk Assessment
  4. Fire Safety Equipment and Training

The Responsible Person

If you are an employer, owner, landlord or occupier you must assign a responsible person to manage your fire safety.  Often, in larger commercial businesses this will be a facilities or buildings manager.  If you are a school or college this is often the caretaker and sometimes responsibility can even sit within the administrative team.  The most important element is that somebody in your business is constantly ensuring you comply with the law!

Risk Assessment

I have carried out many fire risk assessments over the past 25 years.  Even with strict legislation in place, I still find sites where employees, customers and sometimes children are at risk if a fire was to breakout.

There are four key elements of a Fire Risk Assessment:

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The Responsible Person

If you are an employer, owner, landlord or occupier you must assign a responsible person to manage your fire safety.  Often, in larger commercial businesses this will be a facilities or buildings manager.  If you are a school or college this is often the caretaker and sometimes responsibility can even sit within the administrative team.  The most important element is that somebody in your business is constantly ensuring you comply with the law!

Risk Assessment

I have carried out many fire risk assessments over the past 25 years.  Even with strict legislation in place, I still find sites where employees, customers and sometimes children are at risk if a fire was to breakout.

There are four key elements of a Fire Risk Assessment:

Identify all potential fire hazards

How could the fire start in the first place?  Build-up of rubbish; location of heaters and electrical equipment; types of wall and floor covering and the general maintenance of the building.

Who is at risk

Location of workers; do employees work at night or alone?  Disabled access and escape routes for those with increased vulnerability.

 

Risk evaluation

What is the level of risk and what steps can be taken to reduce risk.  Fire detection systems and firefighting equipment if already in place will be tested.

 

Preparation of the Fire Risk Assessment Plan

If you have 5 or more employees, a written record of a risk assessment is compulsory for all business and non-domestic sites. 

 

This written Risk Assessment will include what has been identified as a risk; who and where the greatest risks occur within the building and actions to limit the risk of fire.  It will also include assigned roles to members of the team and training requirements.  Emergency exit routes will be defined together with a recommendation on updating on-site fire equipment or installing new equipment based on size of site.

Even with a Risk Assessment in place, the Fire Safety Order states that it needs to be kept up to date. 

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BAFE recommend you review your Fire Risk Assessment every 12 months to identify any significant changes in the environment even a change in the door access needs to be documented. 

Top Tip: This is separate to the maintenance and testing of the Fire Safety System and commissioning of Fire Extinguishers.

I would recommend a completely new Fire Risk Assessment is carried out every 3 years by an external Fire Safety Company who have the expertise and experience to quickly identify any major issues and have the ability to develop a new plan to safe guard your business.

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Fire Alarm and Detection Systems

UK government recommends that all fire alarm and detection systems should be installed and maintained in accordance with BS 5839.

With only one in four businesses recovering from a fire across the UK and more than 10,000 affected by fire damage each year, it is crucial that the system installed meets the needs of the business as well as meeting current legislation.

The type of system each business depends on several factors including the structure and intended use of the building. Your fire risk assessment will at the very least require the installation of a basic manual fire alarm system such as a Break Glass Unit.

Systems can be extended throughout other buildings and can be linked to sprinklers; public address systems and emergency lighting and can be primed to deploy extinguishing agent such as foam, powder, inert gas or CO2 extinguisher to the affected area.

What system do I need?

There are 3 main types of fire alarm systems:

Conventional Fire Alarm

Conventional fire alarm systems are often more cost effective than their counter parts.  With a conventional fire alarm system there is no way of pin point the exact location of the detector in the event of a fire alarm activation however by wiring your building into different zones our conventional fire alarm systems can give you a general idea of where the fire is.

Addressable Fire Alarm

Addressable fire alarm systems are usually more advance than there conventional counterparts. An addressable fire alarm system will give you more information in the events of a fire alarm activation for example providing you with exactly what fire alarm detector has been activated and on what time and date the fire alarm activation took place.  We typically install these in schools and larger retail or commercial sites where it is imperative that exact alarm activation data is provided.

Wireless Alarm System

A wireless system uses a secure link between sensors and the fire alarm panel.  Works similarly to the addressable system and we would really only recommend in historic buildings or areas where cabling would be unsightly.

Fire Safety Equipment and Training

Of course requirements for equipment and the level of training will vary according to each individual business and will be determined as part of the Risk Assessment.  I would suggest that most businesses would need some or all of the following:

  • Portable regularly commissioned and maintained and specific for your business fire extinguishers
  • Emergency lighting
  • A minimum of two fire safety signs including the Extinguisher ID Sign displaying location of each extinguisher and how to use them
  • Sprinkler systems
  • Fire hose reels
  • Fire detection system – tested weekly
  • Fire safety training as part of the induction training

Fire Extinguishers

There are many types of fire extinguishers and it can be complicated to understand which type is right for your premises.  It can also be confusing on how many fire extinguishers each floor of the premises needs based on whether the premises has a sprinkler system.  I would always suggest you consult a Fire Safety expert to firstly, identify which type you need and then ensure they are professionally commissioned, meet current British safety standards and maintained through an annual maintenance contract.

Fire Safety Training

How your employees act in the event of a fire are crucial to both their safety and that of other people in the premises.

All employees should receive basic fire safety induction training.  Fire Wardens and any employees nominated to use the fire extinguishers must receive additional training.

Again, the Fire Risk Assessment will determine the number of Fire Wardens your premises require based on size of site; level of risk and number of employees you will have on the premises at any one time.

What happens if your business does not comply?

A local fire authority inspection can happen at any time.  If your business is found to be non-compliant with fire safety legislation then they can take action.

Enforcement notices will be issued and, depending on the level of risk they have determined, can attract a fine and potential imprisonment for up to two years for the Responsible Person or Business Owner!

What next?

In my experience, many businesses across the UK are still relying on old, outdated Fire Alarm Systems and Fire Extinguishers.  They put cash in their pocket rather than reinvesting in the safety of their employees. 

The devastation of a fire breaking out in your business is not the risk of loss of life, it is almost always the end of your business as the inability to trade effectively or deal with existing customers leads to insolvency.

If you have any concerns over the fire safety of your business, then I will personally visit and inspect your business for free.

Our team of highly skilled engineers can then help you with:

  • Fire Risk Assessments
  • Fire Alarm design, installation and maintenance
  • Emergency Lighting design installation and maintenance
  • Fire Extinguisher installation and maintenance

Thanks for reading!

Andrew

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How Communicate UK can help!

Communicate UK have a team of friendly installation engineers available to meet demand across Essex so if you are concerned about the fire safety in your premises then call 01245 400044 and book a site survey with Andrew.

You can also email your worries to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Why choose us?

  • 25+ Years Fire Safety Design, Installation and Maintenance knowledge and experience
  • BAFE (the independent auditor of Fire Protection across the UK) Accredited Provider
  • Family-run business based in the heart of Essex
  • 24 hour telephone service
  • All our Fire Alarms and Equipment are designed and manufactured in the UK
  • Over 2000 happy customers in South East of England

  quotesI have been using Communicate UK for over 25 years for our Addressable Fire Alarm System for my factories and commercial offices across Essex.  Their engineers are experienced, flexible and friendly and the systems they have designed have incorporated the latest technology to ensure my employees and my business are always safe from the devastation of a fire". 

Mark Albon, Managing Director, Albon Engineering

 

 

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