The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 came into force in October 2006. Nearly 4 years on, prosecutions seem higher than ever with large high street stores and other large organisations 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. 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 assessments is required by law 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&B’s, 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 except people’s private dwellings (your home or flat) for example.
Help and advice
There is lots of information out there to help you complete a fire risk assessment and often it’s free. Probably one of the best places to start is the “Communities and Local Government” website. Here you will find 14 guidance documents that will cover all types of premises. These can either be purchased or downloaded for free.
The important thing is to keep the fire risk assessments in proportion to the sizes of your premises; a small corner shop is going to have a very simple fire risk assessment compared to a high street store which has several floors. A B&B will require a detailed fire risk assessments as there are occupants sleeping, so they will need to look in detail into the fire alarm system, ensuring that it is adequate to wake the occupants if there ever was a fire. There is a booklet specifically written for premises that have paying guests.
Fire authorities, although not there to write your fire risk assessment for you, are usually willing to help with guidance and advice for anyone who is required to carry out a fire risk assessment.
As the responsible person of the premises (owner, manager, tenant) you can appoint a competent person to undertake the fire risk assessments on your behalf. This is often done when the responsible person does not have the necessary knowledge or when they do not have the time 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 assessments on behalf of the business or company.
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 have a forum, another forum is “Health and Safety for beginners“. Here you will often find first safety consultants who are willing to give their advice for free.
The most important thing to do is not to put off getting a fire risk assessment completed. With insurance companies now looking at clients to have a fire risk assessment carried out, you should get one done as soon as possible.