Alan Palmer is an FSB member and Secretary of the UK Fire Association where he spends much of his time advising business owners about how to prevent fires occurring in the workplace. Alan will explain in simple terms why it is in your interests to take fire safety management seriously and in next months article reveals the simple steps to ensure that you comply with the Fire Safety Order and are also protecting your staff and financial assets too!
Putting fire management plans into place seems daunting and is time consuming, but as an employer you owe a duty of reasonable care to your staff, visitors and other relevant people. Apart from the moral implications think about the devastation even a small fire can cause to your operations. In England alone last year there have been 22,000 fires in non domestic buildings which each will have sustained an average of £40,000 in fire damage.
So you’re insured. Great, but insurers are not exactly renowned for fast payouts and once the money is received will be too late as it cannot replace the customers you lost when your production capability ceased! A local carpet fitter where arson was the cause of fire that destroyed his shop is still waiting after 18 months and it looks like he may never get an insurance payout.
Fire inspection authorities have various powers from written advice, through enforcement/prohibition notices to prosecution. They are taking fire safety very seriously and breaches in regulations can result is substantial fines and imprisonment. Poundstretcher was recently fined £51,500 and ordered to pay £3,450 costs for seven offences under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. Custodial sentences are not uncommon, a director of Watchacre Properties Limited was sentenced to four months imprisonment and his company was fined £21,000 for serious breaches following a fatal fire at a building owned by the company. Ultimately death and risk will be factors in the judging of a case brought against you and the size of the fine will probably be proportional to the size of your business.
You can see that if you have not carried out a fire risk assessment you need to do it now. Guidance is available to download for free from www.communities.gov.uk/fire/firesafety/firesafetylaw
and it needs to be in writing if you have five or more employees. If you do not feel that you have the skills to undertake the fire risk assessment yourself ensure that you appoint someone who is competent – there is no point spending good money or wasting valuable time producing something that a Fire Inspector will not accept.
Once the fire risk assessment has been completed, ensure that it is periodically reviewed and any outstanding actions completed. If you are an occupant of business premises within a building which is also shared with other businesses, you are responsible for your own fire risk assessment and with sharing relevant and significant findings with your neighbours and theirs with you. The landlord will usually prepare the fire risk assessment for common areas like, stairs, toilets, corridors, etc.
In next months article we will look at putting into place fire safety measures in the workplace.