Requirements for Fire Detection Systems in HMOs

What is an HMO?

HMOs are typically large houses that have been converted into flats or bedsits, such as student housing. ‘Houses in multiple occupation’ are defined by gov.uk as follows:

Your home is a house in multiple occupation (HMO) if both of the following apply:

  • at least 3 tenants live there, forming more than 1 household
  • you share toilet, bathroom or kitchen facilities with other tenants

It is important to note that the requirements for sheltered housing, such as supported living facilities, and self-catered rentals, such as holiday cottages are different, and not covered in this blog.

Kitchen facilities are often shared in HMOs
Shared kitchen spaces are a fire risk in HMOs

What grade of smoke alarm system is required for HMOs?

Within most HMOs, there are several acceptable options available for compliance with the Standard, depending on its size and configuration. 

The first option is to have Grade A fire alarm system installed throughout the building. This type of system consists of a conventional or addressable fire alarm panel, and then fire alarm detectors, call points, sounders and beacons are specified according to the layout and requirements of the property and manufactured to BS EN 54. It also requires a power supply to BS EN 54-4, and installation to BS 5839 Part 1.

However, in most cases, this level of coverage is not a requirement. In some small HMOs, for example, it may be acceptable to install a Grade D1 system. This is defined as a system incorporating one or more interlinked mains-powered smoke alarms (and heat alarms if required), each with an integral stand-by supply. They can be hardwire-interlinked or radio-interlinked, meaning that fire alarm panels are not required. The stand-by supply must be tamper-proof and last the full life of the alarm.

The final option, suitable for many medium and even large HMOs, is a mixed system. This involves the installation of Grade A components in communal areas, and any other high-risk areas identified by the risk assessment. Elsewhere in the premises, a separate Grade D1 system can be installed. This has become the preference, as it is likely to reduce the impact of nuisance alarms from individual flats on other occupants.

Ei Electronics and Kidde offer both RF and wired mains powered alarm systems as well as a range of accessories that can help you to test, locate and hush alarms easily. For more guidance about the alarm grade system, visit our help guide.

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Fire detection categories

The coverage within the building by the detection system is divided into three distinct categories. These are described with the following codes:

LD1 (highest level of coverage): Covers all circulation spaces that form part of escape routes plus all rooms in which a fire could start

LD2 (middle level of coverage): Covers all circulation spaces that form part of escape routes plus all rooms and areas that present a high fire risk to occupants

LD3 (lowest level of coverage): Covers circulation spaces that form part of the escape routes

Diagram showing levels of fire detection systems in HMOs

Any room which a building user must pass through, from another, in order to exit the premises would need detectors installed to satisfy these Categories. For example, if all rooms in a bungalow open onto a hallway which leads outside, only the hallway is considered a circulation space forming part of the escape route; if the only exit from the kitchen is into the dining room which then opens onto a hallway, the dining room would also need a detector under LD3 minimum protection as it is part of the escape route.

What category of fire detection is required within my HMO?

Different levels of coverage are needed in different areas of the building due to the risk of fire. This includes different Grades of fire detection system, as well as different configurations of components. For example, communal areas in HMOs are required to have Grade A systems, as they have particularly high levels of risk. This is due to the shared, and therefore often neglected responsibility for safety and housekeeping in HMOs. Moreover, the exact installation requirements within your HMO will depend upon the configuration and size of the premises. For more advice for landlords about fire safety in HMO’s, visit our help guide.

Messy kitchens are a health risk, and a fire hazard.
Responsibility for housekeeping can be neglected in HMOs. This is a fire risk,

Minimum levels of requirements for fire detection systems in HMOs:

The following is general guidance on the minimum levels of installation required in different scenarios.

One or two storey HMOs, where the area of each floor is less than 200sqm:

A Grade D1, category LD1 configuration should be installed in a new, or materially altered HMO. In an existing premises of this size, category LD2 is acceptable if it is already installed, but an LD3 system must be upgraded to comply with the Standard.

Areas within HMOs with more than 3 floors, or where the area of at least one floor is greater than 200sqm

Individual, one-room dwellings, with or without cooking facilities:

A Grade D1, category LD1 configuration should be installed. This is required in a new and existing HMO premises.

Individual dwellings comprising two or more rooms:

A Grade D1, category LD2 configuration should be installed. This is required in a new and existing HMO premises.

Communal areas

A Grade A, category LD2 configuration should be installed. This is required in a new and existing HMO premises.

Suitable Fire Detection Systems in HMOs

Always ensure that a comprehensive fire risk assessment has been carried out in your property by a competent person, to determine the risks specific to your premises. This is essential to protect the occupants, particularly as many tenants of HMOs are young and / or vulnerable renters. The Responsible Person for the building may be prosecuted if they cannot demonstrate that they have made every reasonable effort to comply with fire safety requirements enforced by their local council, particularly if a fire breaks out. Compliance with the Standards is the best way to ensure that this compliance can be achieved and evidenced.  

For additional guidance, please visit our Smoke Alarm Help and Information and BS 5839 summary page.

Everything you need to know about cooking oil fires

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), cooking equipment is the leading cause of house fires, with unattended cooking being the primary culprit. Cooking oil fires, in particular, pose a unique challenge due to the intensity and rapid spread of the flames.

Cooking oil fires are difficult to extinguish if you don’t have the right equipment at hand. The powerful jet of some fire extinguishers could spread the oil fire. Using water to extinguisher oil fires can cause the fire to erupt violently. Therefore, it is important to have the correct equipment to tackle kitchen fires

Tackling Cooking Oil Fires at Home

How to put out a Cooking Oil Fire

Pan fires can be tackled with fire blankets and fire extinguishers. A water mist fire extinguisher is versatile, and therefore can tackle all types of kitchen fire including fires involving electrical equipment up to 1000 volts. A fire blanket is a good option for most domestic kitchens, as generally smaller amounts of oil are used. A fire blanket is placed over the pan fire to smother it and starve the fire from oxygen.

For larger deep fat fryers in your home, we would recommend a wet chemical fire extinguisher which holds a 25F rating. The wet chemical extinguisher is made specifically for tackling larger quantities of oil on fire.

Where to put a Kitchen Fire Extinguisher

In the case of cooking oil fires, having a fire extinguisher within easy reach can be a lifesaver. Mount the extinguisher in a visible and easily accessible location, away from the stove but still within close proximity to the cooking area. We recommend placing your fire extinguisher near the kitchen exit, ensuring a quick and unobstructed path to safety. Avoid placing it too close to potential fire hazards, such as curtains or wooden cabinets.

Tackling Cooking Oil Fires at Work

If you work in a commercial kitchen with deep fat fryers, a wet chemical kitchen fire extinguisher is usually recommended. Wet chemical fire extinguishers are specifically designed to put out cooking oil fires and therefore should be kept in kitchens for commercial use. The wet chemical fire extinguisher forms a foam blanket on top of the oil which stops the supply of oxygen, therefore extinguishing the fire. Fire blankets are also a useful addition in a commercial kitchen as they can be used on pan fires, cooking oil fires, waste basket fires and also clothing fires.

What to do in a Kitchen Fire

  • Stay calm
  • Turn off the heat source (if possible)
  • If the fire is not too big, use your fire extinguisher or fire blanket to try and extinguish the fire 
  • Call emergency services
  • Move anything else that could catch fire away from the burning oil if you can
  • Make sure children and pets do not come near the fire
A man cooking starts a cooking fire.

How can Cooking Oil Fires be Prevented?

To avoid cooking oil fires, never leave cooking unattended and pay attention to cooking pans and deep fat fryers at all times, especially when cooking with oil. Keep the area clean from grease buildup, as accumulated grease can be a potential fuel source for fires. In the event of a small grease fire, never use water to extinguish it. Instead, cover the pan with a fire blanket or use a fire extinguisher for kitchen fires. By adopting these preventive measures, you can significantly reduce the likelihood of cooking oil fires and enhance the overall safety of your kitchen.

For further advice on fire prevention in your home, complete the Home Fire Safety Check. Get personalised tips and a fire safety action plan to help you and your family to stay safe.

Why are fire drills important?

Conducting regular fire drills in the workplace is essential in order to practice for a safe evacuation during a fire. Fire drills go beyond compliance with regulations; they are the heartbeat of safety culture within organisations. Not only do they ensure that all staff, customers and visitors to your premises understand what they need to do if there is a fire, but they also help you to test how effective your fire evacuation procedure is.

What is a fire drill?

A fire drill is an organised procedure to simulate the steps you should take in the event of a fire. Its primary function is to ensure that all individuals in the building are familiar with escape routes, emergency exits and safety protocols. A fire drill educates and prepares occupants for a swift evacuation in the event of a real fire. A fire drill usually involves sounding the alarm system, evacuation to designated assembly points and coordination with emergency responders.

Regularly practicing fire drills enhances your readiness and response in the event of a real fire, which contribute to a safer environment for everyone involved.

Life or death

Imagine a fire starts. The company does not conduct regular fire drills. Everyone is panicking and doesn’t know what to do as part of the fire evacuation procedure. However, an organisation or even a household that conducts regular fire drills remains calm. Instinct kicks in from the fire drill practice to follow the fire evacuation procedure. This can be the difference between life and death.

Why should I do fire drills?

  • Be prepared in the event of a fire
  • Familiarity with evacuation routes
  • Test emergency systems
  • Calm response in the event of a fire
  • Identify weaknesses in fire evacuation procedure
  • Builds a ‘safety-first’ culture
  • Strive for continuous improvement 
  • Comply with regulations

‘You need to train new staff when they start work and tell all employees about any new fire risks.

You should carry out at least one fire drill per year and record the results. You must keep the results as part of your fire safety and evacuation plan.’ GOV UK

Testing Safety Equipment

Your fire drill not only gives people a routine to ensure their safety, it also gives you the opportunity to make sure essential fire safety equipment is in working order. Fire safety equipment includes alarm systems, fire door retainers, emergency lighting and evacuation equipment. In the event of a real emergency, all fire safety equipment must be working to evacuate timely and to prevent the spread of fire.

If, while undergoing a fire drill, you find that your fire safety equipment isn’t working; get it fixed or replaced as soon as possible to give your business the best chance of being protected.

How often should you do fire drills?

Yearly fire drills are a legal requirement for all businesses. However, Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recommends having a few fire drills each year to enhance safety measures and better prepare for potential emergencies. While the minimum legal standard is an annual fire drill, more frequent exercises, such as quarterly or semi-annual drills, can significantly improve the effectiveness of emergency response plans.

Fire Drill Roles & Responsibilities

Designating key roles to individuals during your fire drills helps streamline the evacuation. Fire Wardens oversee the evacuation process and check designated areas, while Evacuation Marshals are responsible for guiding people to safety. Someone should also be assigned to account for all individuals at the assembly points to ensure that everyone has safely evacuated the building. Clearly defining roles and responsibilities in advance ensures confidence in individuals that there is a well-coordinated plan in place.

Is Your Home Gas Safe?

Gas boilers, heaters, fires and cookers are common in households across the UK. However, many people are unaware of the dangers of poor maintenance of this type of appliance. Is your home gas safe?

Dangerous gas appliances

Faulty gas appliances can produce toxic carbon monoxide gas as a result of incomplete combustion. Carbon monoxide is odourless and colourless meaning that without a detector, its presence cannot be identified. Even if your gas burning appliances are regularly serviced by a qualified engineer, it is possible for faults to occur. Alongside maintaining household appliances, the best way to keep your home gas safe is to install a CO alarm.

Carbon Monoxide emissions from a poorly fitted, poorly ventilated or faulty gas appliance can be deadly. On average, 50 people in the UK are killed each year by CO poisoning, with 4,000 admitted to hospital. There are also an unknown number of people who have suffered some degree of carbon monoxide poisoning, and either do not report it or are mis-diagnosed as the symptoms are very similar to common flu.

Dangers of unqualified gas fitters

The Gas Safe Register has highlighted the dangers of unqualified fitters, reporting that when inspected by a registered Gas Safe Engineer, 79% of boilers originally installed by unqualified fitters are putting occupants at risk, or are classified as immediately dangerous. Similar statistics published by Gas Safety Week show that half of all gas fires inspected by a registered Gas Safe Engineer are unsafe.

The Gas Safe Register logo is a recognisable yellow triangle.
The Gas Safe Register logo is recognisable

Maintaining gas appliances

If you have a gas appliance, you should have it serviced every year. Always ensure that repairs or new installations are only carried out by a qualified and registered Gas Safe Engineer. Regular servicing is the best way to prevent faults, and keep your family safe from deadly CO gas. Check to see if loved ones and vulnerable friends or neighbours have an up to date gas safety certificate.

Remember to check whether the engineer in your home appears on the gas safety register before allowing them to start work.
Only registered Gas Safe engineers should service the gas burning appliances in your home

The Gas Safety watch dog is urging consumers to always check the credentials of any gas fitter. This should always be done before allowing them to do any work on a gas appliance. They are also asking the public to inform them of any rogue installers who are claiming to be qualified, but do not appear on the Gas Safety Register.

Get gas safe – Importance of installing CO alarms

You should always install a carbon monoxide alarm to protect your household from the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, especially because carbon monoxide can travel through adjoining walls. Therefore, even if you don’t have any gas appliances, or are certain that every appliance in your home is gas safe, a detector is the only way to have complete peace of mind.

Many detectors have a long life, and so remain reliable for up to a decade. With options for audio and visual cues, there is an alarm suitable for everyone. Check that every CO alarm in your home is marked BS EN 50291 and displays the British Standards’ Kitemark. If you can’t see these markings, or need to replace an old device, you can find a selection of CO alarms on our website that are suitable for use at home.

Foam vs Powder Extinguishers

Both foam and powder extinguishers are commonly found in workplaces and public spaces across the UK, but which is best? Both types of extinguisher are suitable for use on most common fire risks, making them versatile, and a popular choice. Selecting the best fire-fighting solution for your organisation can be difficult and will depend on the type of environment and risks that exist.

foam vs powder fire extinguishers
Powder extinguishers are best suited to outdoor areas

Powder Fire Extinguishers

As the name suggests, powder extinguishers contain a dust like powder, which when discharged, forms a thin layer on top of the burning fuel. This layer absorbs heat and deprives the fire of oxygen, which prevents the continuation of the chemical process of combustion.

foam vs powder fire extinguishers
Powder fire extinguishers are available in a range of sizes

Pros of Powder Extinguishers

Cons of Powder Extinguishers

  • No class F rating
  • Messy and costly to clean up after discharge
  • Should only be discharged outdoors
  • Discharge can aggravate respiratory and digestive systems
  • Can reduce visibility when discharged

Foam Fire Extinguishers

Due to the harmful PFAS chemicals that AFFF Foam contains, the manufacture of AFFF foam fire extinguishers is expected to be banned before the end of 2026. Safelincs have already discontinued the sale of AFFF Foam and water additive extinguishers, and some manufacturers have developed a range of more environmentally friendly alternatives.

Britannia Fire has launched two eco-foam P50 Service-Free Fire Extinguishers: A-Foam and B-Foam. Like AFFF Foam, the medium in these units works by covering the fire, and forming a seal that cuts off the oxygen supply, and has a cooling effect.

foam vs powder fire extinguishers

Pros of Foam Extinguishers

Cons of Foam Extinguishers

  • No class C rating

Water Mist Fire Extinguishers – an Alternative to Powder and Foam

Water mist fire extinguishers are 100% environmentally friendly, as they contain only de-ionised water. Upon discharge, water mists therefore release no harmful substances, and leave no messy residue to clean up. The water they contain is de-ionised, and so does not conduct electricity. This means that they are also safe for use on live electrical equipment, making them an ideal replacement for the AFFF foam extinguishers.

An alternative solution to foam or powder fire extinguisher

Foam vs Powder Extinguishers – Which Extinguisher Should I Choose?

In premises where the fire risk assessment has identified only Class A and/or Class B risks plus fires involving electrical equipment, there are several types of fire extinguisher which may be suitable:

Ultimately, the type of extinguisher that needs to be installed on a premises will be determined by the risks identified by the fire risk assessment. Where there is overlap, and more than one type of extinguisher would be suitable, it is up to the responsible person to ensure that they have selected the most effective and appropriate fire-fighting solution for their organisation or property.

Powder extinguishers are often best for outdoor environments where there is a mixed fire risk. Water mist or eco-foam extinguishers are ideal for indoor spaces with common fire risks.

If you are still unsure which type of extinguisher to install on your premises, why not book an extinguisher survey with one of our qualified engineers. We also offer free site surveys for service-free P50 fire extinguishers.

Gaps Underneath Fire Doors

What is the maximum gap allowed under a fire door?

The maximum gap allowed under a fire door is usually 10mm. However, this is not always the case. It is essential to consult the manufacturer’s guidance for the specific type of door that has been installed.

Why should I worry about the gap under my fire door?

Fire doors need a bit of a gap around them to swing freely above the floor covering. However, if the gap is too wide, the fire door’s effectiveness will be compromised. In that case, the door may not provide the protection that it should if a fire breaks out.

All Responsible Persons for fire safety have a legal obligation to maintain their fire doors in accordance with its certification. There is new legislation for the maintenance of fire doors in residential flats. As a result of this legislation, thorough fire door checks must be caried out every three months in properties over 11 meters high, or containing two or more separate dwellings. Consequently, if fire doors are found to be non-compliant, and there are no plans in place for repair or replacement, the Responsible Person could be prosecuted.

Are gaps allowed under fire doors?

Yes, fire doors should have gaps underneath them to allow free movement and ventilation. The allowance for the size of this gap varies between manufactures and must fall within the specified range for that door. Therefore, as recommended in BS 8214:2016 – 9.5.3, you should check requirements with your fire door manufacturer. This is the only way to ensure that every door on your premises is complaint. The door manufacturer should be able to give you specific advice for your circumstance.

If smoke protection is required by Building Regulations, the maximum gap underneath the fire door is reduced to 3mm.

How to fix fire door gaps

Surface mounted drop-down smoke seals or rebated drop-down smoke seals can be fitted to existing fire doors if the gap is too large. Usually suitable for gaps of up to 14mm, they can be attached to the bottom of the door. When the door closes, a plunger makes contact with the door frame and lowers the seal to the floor, closing the gap under the door.


Surface Mounted Drop-Down Smoke Seal

Need further advice?

Gaps underneath fire doors aren’t the only place where compliance issues can arise. To carry out a full fire door check, why not use our free fire door inspection checklist? If you find that your door is unsuitable and needs to be replaced, you can view our range of standard and bespoke fire doors, or contact our friendly and knowledgeable fire door team at 01507 462 176 or email firedoors@safelincs.co.uk.

If you would like further advice or information about your fire doors, read our Fire Door FAQs or fire door guide.

Does a Carbon Monoxide Detector Detect Gas?

Will a Carbon Monoxide alarm detect gas leaks? Carbon Monoxide detectors will only be activated by the presence of carbon monoxide gas (CO), which is the result of incomplete combustion. CO can be released by faulty fuel-burning appliances, such as gas stoves, boilers, and fire places. Carbon monoxide detectors will not detect gas leaks involving the natural gas (NG) or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) which fuel household appliances, such as boilers.

Faulty gas boilers can release CO, while gas leaks are caused by damaged pipes
A carbon monoxide alarm will not detect gas leaks

Why has my CO alarm not gone off during a gas leak?

An odorant is added to LPG and NG gas supplied to homes, because the gases are highly flammable and explosive. The unpleasant, sulphur-like smell is designed to alert occupiers to any leaks. Many people worry that there is a problem with their CO detectors when, even though they can smell gas, their CO alarm has not gone off.

However, in these scenarios, the CO alarm is not faulty. The detectors in these devices are only triggered by carbon monoxide, which is released by faulty fuel burning appliances. Carbon monoxide is colourless and has no smell, and therefore cannot be detected by humans, unlike a gas leak. Ensure your CO alarm is in good working order by pressing the ‘test’ button regularly. You should also check that the alarm is still ‘in date’ (CO alarms usually need replacing between 7 and 10 years after installation).

Carbon Monoxide alarm will not detect gas leaks
A digital CO alarm will display current CO levels at all times

How can I protect my family from carbon monoxide gas?

Carbon Monoxide has no colour, smell, or taste, but can kill within minutes of exposure. CO is a byproduct of incomplete combustion within faulty gas burning appliances, so there is no way to add an odorant to this deadly gas. The only way to detect Carbon Monoxide is with a CO detector. To protect your family from CO poisoning:

For more information about the dangers of Carbon Monoxide, and what to do if you are being exposed, read ‘Do I need a Carbon Monoxide alarm?’.

A carbon monoxide alarm can’t detect gas leaks, so how can a gas leak be detected?

Gas leaks can be incredibly dangerous, due to the explosive and flammable nature of component gases. While the strong smell added to these gases is designed to alert occupiers of the leak, this is unlikely to wake you if you are asleep. If you wish to protect your family against leaks of unburned gases, install a specialist gas detector in your home.

What to do if there is a gas leak in your home

If you smell gas in your home, it is likely that there is a gas leak. This could be in your home, or a neighbouring property. Open all windows and doors to dilute the concentrations of gas in the property. Do not light cigarettes or matches, or turn on any electrical devices. If possible, turn off the gas meter to stop more gas from entering, and alert neighbours to do the same until the source of the leak has been professionally identified.

Evacuate the property, and once outside the property, call your local GDN’s emergency number (Gas Distribution Network) as soon as possible.

Do I Need A Carbon Monoxide Alarm?

Carbon monoxide (CO) gas is impossible to detect without an alarm and exposure can have serious health implications. Over 100 people in the UK have died from CO poisoning each year since 2010. The importance of having a CO alarm in your home should not be underestimated.

Install a CO alarm in your home to protect your family from the 'Silent Killer'
CO has no taste or smell – without a detector in your home, you cannot know if you are at risk

What is Carbon Monoxide?

Carbon monoxide (CO), also known as the Silent Killer, is a colourless, tasteless and odourless gas. Highly poisonous to humans and animals, carbon monoxide is produced when fuels are burnt without enough oxygen present. Common sources of CO include faulty gas cookers, gas boilers, chimneys and log burners.

Do I need a CO alarm?

CO is impossible to detect without a carbon monoxide alarm. Having your appliances properly serviced and maintained each year is important but it is not a guarantee that you will be safe. Faults can, and do develop between inspections, potentially exposing you and your family to this deadly gas.

If you’re a home owner without a CO alarm, you should strongly consider investing in one to protect your household. Even if your home is supplied and heated only with electrical appliances, the gas can travel through walls. Therefore, your neighbours’ appliances, over which you have no control, could put your home at risk. Adjoining garages that house vehicles and petrol-fuelled equipment such as lawnmowers can also be a source of CO.

In Scotland, it is mandatory for every home to have a carbon monoxide alarm where there is a carbon fuelled appliance or flue. Find out more about the Scottish carbon monoxide alarm regulations.

If you’re a tenant, landlords are legally required to provide CO detection, although the level of protection differs for each country in the UK.

What are the symptoms of CO poisoning?
The symptoms of CO poisoning are similar to common illnesses – nausea, headaches, fatigue, weakness, and dizziness can be easily overlooked.

How do I know if I have CO poisoning?

This deadly gas starts with subtle symptoms, which can quickly become fatal if ignored. Headaches, dizziness, nausea, weakness, confusion, shortness of breath and chest and muscle pain are the most common signs. They may be intermittent, but get worse the longer the victim is exposed to CO.

Having a CO alarm will alert you to any potential carbon monoxide exposure, and is the only way to know for certain if you are in danger. The symptoms of CO poisoning are similar to many other common illnesses, and can easily be overlooked.

If you think you have been exposed to CO, you should switch off appliances you think might be making carbon monoxide if possible. Open as many doors and windows as possible to improve air circulation, and leave the building as quickly as you can. Get medical advice immediately, and do not return to the building until you are certain that it is safe to do so.

What CO alarm should I choose?

Carbon monoxide alarms are affordable and do not require any wiring or installation.

Every device in our CO alarm range is certified to BS EN 50291 Part 1. This defines the standard that CO alarms must be made to for use in the home. We also stock a range that are suitable for camping, caravans and travel when gas cookers and heaters are commonly used (these alarms are certified to BS EN50291-2).

For improved peace of mind, an alarm with a digital display, such as the Kidde 5DCO carbon monoxide alarm, will enable you to see exactly what levels of CO are in your home. That way you can easily spot any issues before CO levels become dangerously high.

Protect your family with a CO alarm

Do Public Defibrillators Save Lives?

Public defibrillators save lives; research has consistently highlighted the need for more public access defibrillators. UK ambulance services attempt resuscitation of more than 30,000 cardiac arrest victims each year outside of hospital. In 90% of cases, this will be fatal; survival chances for victims decrease by 10% for every minute without a defibrillator (AED) being used on them.

In contrast, fewer than 350 people are killed by fire-related deaths each year, owing to fire safety legislation in the UK. More than 25,000 people die from cardiac arrests outside of hospital annually. If a defibrillator is used within one minute, survival rates are as high as 90%. Moreover, defibrillators should be as accessible as fire extinguishers.

Public defibrillators in the UK

Despite several campaigns to increase their numbers, there is no legislation in place to make defibrillators available beyond hospital settings. There is no legal need to install these life saving devices, and poor understanding of how to use them. Together, this is contributing to a high number of unnecessary deaths from cardiac arrest occurring outside hospitals.

Research carried out in 2014 by the University of Southampton and South Central Ambulance Service highlighted the significance of this issue. It set out to discover how available external defibrillators are, given the push for their deployment in public places.

At this time, 673 known PADs (public access defibrillators) were located in 278 Hampshire locations. Out of 1,035 emergency calls which occurred in one year, the caller could access a defibrillator in only 44 cases. The caller was actually able to use the defibrillator in only 18 cases.

How do defibrillators work?

AED’s work by giving an electric shock to the heart to restore its rhythm.

When the sticky pads of the defibrillator are correctly applied to the bare skin of the patient, the device can measure the heart rate. It can then determine whether a shock is required – if a shock is required, it will be delivered either automatically (by an automatic AED), or upon the press of a button (by a semi-automatic AED). 

 
Public Defibrillators are increasingly common, even in rural villages
Public Defibrillators are increasingly common, even in rural villages

Fully automated defibrillators are ideal for public use, as they make administration of care as easy as possible. The units not only offer spoken and visual indicators about each step, they also automatically analyse the heart rhythm. The devices will automatically select the correct level of shock for the person who has suffered a cardiac arrest.

Defibrillator Training

Anyone can use an AED, owing to the simple instructions that they are supplied with. However, many individuals lack the confidence to do so. People may worry that they will cause harm to the patient, with moral or legal consequences, or may not be comfortable performing CPR.

The Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism Act 2015 protects those ‘Good Samaritans’ who have attempted to rescue a victim of cardiac arrest (or similar). If nothing is done to assist a victim of cardiac arrest, they will die; if something is done, they may live. Defibrillators will not administer a shock if one is not required, making it almost impossible to cause harm. The law has never been cited in court as no one has ever been sued for trying to deliver CPR, and it is unlikely that this would occur.

Defibrillator Training equips people with the skills and confidence to save a life, but is not essential for use of an AED
Defibrillator Training equips people with the skills and confidence to save a life, but is not essential for use of an AED

It is strongly recommended that organisations who have installed defibrillators provide AED and CPR training for staff. Training equips staff with the skills and confidence to attempt rescue, should the need arise. This training could save the lives of your staff, visitors to your site, or the general public.

Funding for defibrillators

At the end of 2022, the government announced that a £1 million fund will be made available to increase the number of community defibrillators. This will equate to roughly 1000 new AEDs made available to the public. Further to this, a defibrillator will be provided to every state-funded school in England by the end of 2023.

The Circuit: Public Defibrillators Save Lives

Public Access Defibrillators – The Circuit

The Circuit, or National Defibrillator Network provides NHS ambulance services and the general public with information about all of the public access defibrillators in the UK. In the case of a cardiac arrest, the ambulance services can direct bystanders to the closest device. This enables members of the public to deliver essential care while awaiting the arrival of paramedics. This initiative has so far made more than 46,000 publicly available; roughly half of all AEDs in the UK. This initiative is saving lives by improving access to these devices – for more information, go to https://www.thecircuit.uk/.

Are public defibrillators locked?

To prevent theft, vandalism, and misuse, many public defibrillators are locked. Ambulance services should be able to provide bystanders of a cardiac arrest with access details for the nearest public AED.

Is Health and Safety Training a Legal Requirement?

Health and safety training is a legal requirement. The specific training required will depend on each employee’s role, and the risks identified within the business. It is vital that businesses get health and safety right; getting it wrong can lead to fines, production downtime, and could cost someone their life. Here we explore your duties as a business owner, manager, or the responsible person within your organisation.

Health and safety training is a legal requirement
Health and Safety Training is a Legal Requirement

UK Legislation for Health and Safety at Work

The Health and Safety at Work Act enforces employers’ legal duty to provide their employees with the correct H&S training. In addition, the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order states that the responsible person of every organisation must ensure that employees are provided with adequate fire safety training.

Type of training, and how often training should be carried out, will depend upon the level of risk identified in the workplace risk assessment. This should cover fire safety, processes and practices, equipment and the people within the business, including visitors.

Health and Safety Training Courses

Providing staff with the correct health and safety training ensures safe working practices, prevents injuries, and fosters a positive H&S culture.

Do all employees need manual handling training?

Under UK legislation, employers must ensure their staff are adequately trained to competently carry out their roles. If a role includes any task which requires moving a load by carrying, pulling, pushing, lifting or lowering, manual handling training is required. This training promotes good lifting techniques and encourages the use of mechanical aids to reduce the risk of injury. The course covers the aspects of Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992. This equips staff with the skills to carry out risk assessments before lifting/carrying, further reducing the risk of injury.

Is first aid training a legal requirement?

Under the Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981, employers are legally responsible for arranging immediate care for any employee who has an accident or becomes unwell at work, including having adequate equipment, facilities and designated staff. The requirements to fulfil this duty will depend upon the findings of the business’s risk assessment. If one or more appointed first aiders are found to be required, adequate first aid training must be provided.

What first aid training is required?

Depending on the risks identified in the workplace, it may be necessary to enrol first aiders in adult and paediatric first aid courses, as well as an AED (defibrillator) and CPR course. First aid training ensures competence and confidence for first responders, ensuring effective care can be given in an emergency. Practical first aid training provides delegates with on experience, and the opportunity to have their questions answered.

It is important to note that there are different levels of first aid. This includes emergency first aid at work (one-day course) and first aid at work (a more in-depth three-day course). You need to decide which type of training your first aiders will require. Often small and low-risk environments only need to have someone trained in emergency first aid at work. On the other hand, large and high-risk businesses will require at least one staff member to have completed a first aid at work course.

First aid kits must be sufficient and replenished
Ensure your first aid supplies are sufficient and replenished

Fire Safety Training Courses

Employers are required by law to ensure that all staff have adequate fire safety training. This training will improve the day-to-day safety of your building by enabling staff to identify and regulate fire risks. This reduces the risk of fire, and equip staff with the skills effectively respond in the event of a fire.

What fire safety training is required?

All new staff must receive information about fire safety within your organisation. This fire safety awareness training course will help them to understand and identify potential fire risks, and how to respond in the event of a fire. All employees must be informed of fire risks in the workplace, and fire drills must be carried out at least once annually.

Under the 2005 Fire Safety Order, it is a legal requirement for all businesses to have at least one fire marshal. The specific number of fire marshals required will depend upon the findings of the business’s fire risk assessment. All staff members with fire marshal responsibilities must be provided with appropriate fire marshal training. This training teaches delegates the role of a Fire Marshal and their responsibilities. It also explains current legislation and the steps that must be taken in the event of a fire.

Evacuation equipment and training

Organisations have a legal duty of care for all people on the premises at any given time. Responsible persons must consider any disability, injury or impairment in mobility, even if it is a temporary state. This includes, for example, heavily pregnant women, people with special needs, bariatric people, and those with limited mobility. To understand necessary measures to safely facilitate an emergency evacuation, a personal emergency evacuation plan (PEEP) needs to be completed, and the required measures implemented. It may be necessary to provide specific evacuation equipment such as evacuation chairs, evacuation sheets and sledges.

Do employees need evacuation training?

Under the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) 1998 businesses and organisations have responsibilities to ensure that equipment is suitable, maintained, and only used by trained staff.  Evac+Chair Training is essential for staff in buildings where an Evac+Chair is fitted. These devices provide a lifeline for staff and visitors with disabilities and mobility impairments in the event of a fire or other emergency.

When is evacuation sheet training required?

Evacuation sheets are usually installed in buildings where a bariatric person may need to be evacuated. Some sheets and sledges can carry weights up to 2600kg – more than 10 times the capacity of a bariatric Evac+Chair. These specialist devices should also be fitted where a bedridden person will need evacuation, such as hospitals and care homes. These devices are specifically for vulnerable people for whom evacuation chairs are not suitable. Evacuation Sheet Training ensures that the vulnerable person can be safely evacuated, and that users are not at risk of injuring themselves.  

Evacuation chair training to meet your health and safety training requirements
Evac+Chair Training

If your organisation does not have an evacuation device and you are unsure whether you need one, visit our Evacuation Equipment Legal Requirements, which offers guidance about your duty of care.

FAQs

Q. What are the benefits of in-person fire safety training and first aid training?

A. Having face-to-face training can help delegates focus better. It gives them the opportunity to build a rapport with the trainer, giving them the confidence to ask questions. In-person courses often have practical elements to them, which help to consolidate theory and put into practice what is being taught. Practice under supervision gives an increased confidence when having to utilise the knowledge in an emergency. 

Q. How many first aiders does my business need?

A. The number of first aiders required depends upon the number of employees and risk level of a workplace.

Moreover, low-risk environments include most offices and shops, while construction sites and railways would be considered high-risk. Usually, at least one appointed person is required for a low-hazard environment with fewer than 25 employees. Conversely, one appointed person is required for a high-hazard environment with fewer than 5 employees. For more advice to determine the number of first aiders your business requires, go to https://www.hse.gov.uk/firstaid/first-aid-training.htm.

Q. What health and safety training should my employer provide?

Employers have a legal duty to provide health and safety training enabling all employees to carry out their work safely. The type of training and who needs to undertake the training will be defined in the business risk assessments.

  • Manual handling training is required for anyone who needs to move a load by carrying, pulling, pushing, lifting, or lowering.
  • First aid training should be provided to the designated first aiders to care for staff in the event of injury or illness at work. The type of first aid course and the number of first aiders will depend on the level of risk and number of staff.
  • Fire awareness training, including being made aware of the building’s fire safety and evacuation procedures, is required for all new employees and periodically thereafter.
  • Fire Marshal training is required for designated staff to ensure the safe and speedy evacuation of the premises in an emergency.
  • Evacuation device training is required for appointed staff who would be expected to operate an evacuation chair or evacuation sledge or sheet in an emergency.