The Building Regulations and the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRFSO) are the most commonly referred to documents that define the broad responsibilities of those constructing and managing buildings when it comes to limiting the spread of fire through the implementation of passive fire protection (PFP).
Building regulations clarify the need for compartmentalisation in newly built properties in order to help prevent fire from spreading. This applies equally to buildings intended for domestic and non-domestic use.
Government guidelines state that, if your premises have been designed and built in line with modern building regulations and are being used in line with those regulations, your structural fire precautions should be acceptable. However, for non-domestic properties, the 'responsible person' still needs to carry out periodic fire-risk assessments to ensure that all fire precautions and maintenance routines are kept up to date as required by the RRFSO.
The RRFSO has a slightly different focus than building regulations as it is an overarching piece of legislation that defines the ongoing duties of the 'responsible person' to ensure building occupants (regular or occasional) are exposed to the lowest possible fire risk. A key part of this responsibility is ensuring adequate PFP is in place and maintained.
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 applies to non-domestic buildings and the shared areas of houses of multiple occupation (HMOs). A number of official guides are available including the HM Government entry level guide to the RRFSO, "A short guide to making your premises safe from fire" (June 2006). This document notes that:
"The responsible person, either on their own or with any other responsible person, must as far as is reasonably practical make sure that everyone on the premises, or nearby, can escape safely if there is a fire."
As well as the above mentioned guidance, a further series of fire safety risk assessment guides have been published by HM Government in respect of non-domestic premises (e.g. offices and shops, small, medium or large places of assembly, theatres, cinemas and similar premises). These are intended to help businesses understand and comply with the RRFSO and contain information on the concept of compartmentalisation as well as other aspects of fire safety. For further information visit our dedicated compartmentalisation help section.
With an existing building, any structural vulnerability in respect of fire resistance should be addressed wherever practicable by upgrading: for example, through sub-dividing larger areas of risk within the premises into smaller units, installing fire doors or implementing other passive fire protection (PFP) measures.
The specific fire safety requirements in relation to furniture are defined in law by The Furniture and Furnishings (Fire Safety) Regulations 1988. This legislation introduced basic standards of fireproofing and labelling to be applied to all furniture manufactured after 1950.
There is also a wide range of British Standards providing guidance to manufacturers relating to the ignition resistance of specific materials and the testing methods to establish this. Two of the most often cited standards covering resistance to ignition are BS 7176:2007+A1:2011, which relates to upholstered furniture, and BS 7177:2008+A1:2011 relating to mattresses and bed bases. Details of other relevant standards are provided for reference at the end of this section.
The General Product Safety Regulations 2005 (GPSR) underpin all of these documents, and provides general protection for consumers in relation to the basic quality of goods available to purchase. This legislation applies to both manufacturers and retailers and covers any item being sold commercially.
Fire tests on building materials and structures. Method for determination of the fire resistance of elements of construction (general principles)
Methods of test for assessment of the ignitability of upholstered seating by smouldering and flaming ignition sources
Fabrics for curtains, drapes and window blinds. Flammability requirements. Specification
Methods of test for assessment of ignitability of mattresses, upholstered divans and upholstered bed bases with flaming types of primary and secondary sources of ignition
Methods of test for the ignitability of bedcovers and pillows by smouldering and flaming ignition sources
Specification for resistance to ignition of upholstered furniture for non-domestic seating by testing composites
Specification for resistance to ignition of mattresses, mattress pads, divans and bed bases
(doc:521 V1.0). Our articles are reviewed regularly. However, any changes made to standards or legislation following the review date will not have been considered. Please note that we provide abridged, easy-to-understand guidance. To make detailed decisions about your fire safety provisions, you might require further advice or need to consult the full standards and legislation.