Do you comply?
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 came into force in October 2006 and nearly 4 years on prosecutions seem higher than ever with large high street stores being taken to court and served with substantial fines and costs. Recent examples include New Look, Oxford Street £500,000, Tesco £119,000, and Shell International £300,000 and the courts don't just stop at fines and costs. Two people are now serving time in jail for breaches under the RR(FS)O.
So the question is how are small business and companies supposed to comply when the big high street stores seem to struggle. The first thing is to recognise that a fire risk assessment is required by law and is for virtually all types of premises, from the small corner shop to the big high street stores and don't just think of shops. Offices, hotels, B&Bs, garages and industrial units all come under the RR(FS)O. In fact there are very few places that don't come under the order, private dwellings (your home or flat), for example.
The government is there to help with free information
The important thing to realise is that there is lots of information out there to help you complete a fire risk assessment and often it is all free. Probably one of the best places to start is the "Communities and Local Government" website www.communities.gov.uk/fire/firesafety/firesafetylaw/aboutguides/ Here you will find 14 guidance documents that will cover all types of premises. You can either buy the documents for £12 or download them for free. They have lots of pictures, tables and drawings which help to make the information easy to digest for the reader and contain examples of how to carry out a fire risk assessment. The most important thing is to keep the fire risk assessment in proportion to the size of your premises; a small corner shop is going to have a very simple fire risk assessment compared to a high street store that has several floors. Equally a B&B will require a more detailed fire risk assessment as there are sleeping occupants. They will need to look into far more detail for a fire alarm system and ensure that it is adequate to wake the occupants in the event of a fire. There is a booklet specifically written for premises that have paying guests www.communities.gov.uk/fire/firesafety/firesafetylaw/accommodationproviders/
The fire authority can point you in the right direction if you are struggling to write your fire risk assessment but they are not there to write it for you. They are normally willing to assist you in giving advice. One source is to check your local fire authority website where you may find additional information as well as contact details. Some fire authorities run short courses, that are often free, to help business owners understand there responsibilities under the RR(FS)O.
As the responsible person of the premises (owner, manager, tenant) you can appoint a competent person to undertake the fire risk assessment on your behalf. This is often done when the responsible person does not have the necessary competence or when they do not have the time or resources to carry out the risk assessment themselves. You must ensure they have adequate training, knowledge and experience before doing so; this could be an employee of the company or a fire safety consultant who is employed to carry out the fire risk assessment on behalf of the business or company. Inviting a fire safety consultant around to quote for the work will give you the opportunity to see if they identify issues you might not have thought of and a chance to have a look at their qualifications and an example of a past fire risk assessment they have completed. Of course there is cost involved in hiring a fire safety consultant but they have the advantage that they will be able to complete the risk assessment in a shorter time with their knowledge and training. They will also be able to provide a very thorough report giving you an action plan and the most cost effective solution to any issues found. Employing a consultant could be cheaper than carrying out the fire risk assessment yourself.
Other sources of help
If there is a particular issue or something you don't understand then help can be found on the internet via fire safety forums or health and safety forums. Safelincs has its own fire safety forum dedicated to fire safety help and advice, another is "health and safety for beginners" where you will often find fire safety consultants who are willing to give their advice for free. The most important thing is not to be put off getting a fire risk assessment completed. With insurance companies now looking at wanting clients to have a fire risk assessment carried out, it could be a case of having to get one done sooner rather than later.
Written by Philip Beale TechIOSH AIIRSM
If you have a specific question why not post it in the Safelincs forum where we will give you every assistance we can.