FAQ | Fire Safety for employers

FAQs – Fire arrangements, induction & training

Ellis Whittam is often asked about fire safety in the workplace. So we’ve put together some of the frequently asked questions:

Who’s responsible for fire safety?

Under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, fire safety in business (or other non-domestic premises) is entirely the responsibility of the employer, occupier or manager.

You will, therefore, be the ‘responsible person’ for fire safety if you’re:

  • an employer
  • the owner
  • the landlord
  • an occupier
  • anyone else with control of the premises (eg facilities or building manager, managing agent or risk assessor)

What are the fire safety responsibilities?

 The 2005 Order altered the law on workplace fire safety (it replaced multiple laws).

The main changes were:

  • buildings are no longer issued with ‘Fire Certificates’ by the local fire brigade
  • employers are required to carry out a risk assessment

As the employer or ‘responsible person’ you must:

  • carry out a fire risk assessment of your premises and regularly review it
  • tell staff or their representatives about the identified risks
  • put in place and maintain appropriate fire safety measures
  • plan for an emergency
  • provide staff with information, fire safety instruction and training

Who should carry out the fire risk assessment?

Risk assessments should be carried out by someone with sufficient training or experience in fire safety.

What are the main points of a fire risk assessment?

Fire risk assessments can be broken down into the following:

  • identify fire hazards
  • identify people at risk
  • evaluate, reduce, remove and protect from risk
  • record, plan, inform and train
  • review and revise as needed

 Do all my staff need to have fire safety training or just some of them?

All your staff must be taught what to do in the event of a fire.

Should induction training be provided?

Yes, all new starters should be given induction and orientation including:

  • information, instruction and training in safe systems of work
  • being made aware of your fire arrangements and procedures (evacuation, nearest fire exits, routes, and meeting point)
  • introduction to the appointed first-aider and fire marshal

How often should fire drills be held?

You should carry out at least one fire drill every year and record the results.

The results must be kept as part of your fire safety and evacuation plan.

Do I have to evacuate when the fire alarm sounds?

In most cases yes – although it will depend on your building’s evacuation plan.

Most plans will be to immediately act when the alarm sounds. Fire alarms are designed to provide an early warning to allow safe exit of a building during an emergency remember:

  • never ignore or assume the alarm is false or a test
  • everyone must evacuate by way of the safest and closest exit and/or stairway
  • never use a lift to exit during a fire alarm
  • once outside, move away from the building and assemble in a safe place
  • once outside, never re-enter the building until authorised to do so

How often should fire marshals be trained?

On appointment, marshals should be provided with suitable and sufficient fire information, instruction and training (they normally require additional training than other staff).

Thereafter refresher training should take place every 2 years (maximum).

The fire risk assessment and/or fire emergency plan normally details the frequency of staff fire training.

 How many fire marshals do I need?

The answer depends on the nature and size of your organisation. To help work out how many you need, first you need to decide if the level of fire risk in your organisation is:

  • low
  • normal, or
  • high

The level of fire risk will dictate how many marshals you should have.

Unfortunately, there is no legal definition of low, normal or high risk with regards to fire safety as it depends on many factors. But check your fire risk assessment as it should have classified your premises for you.

When calculating the fire risk of premises, you need to take into account two main things:

  • firstly ‘hazards’- how likely is it a fire will happen
  • secondly ‘severity’ – how damaging a fire could be if it did happen

How many fire marshals are required in an office environment?

This depends on the:

  • layout and number of floors the office occupies
  • nature of work being carried out – work processes involving flammable materials may require higher numbers

No matter how small your office (within reason), you should always have at least two appointed and trained fire marshals – in case one is off sick, on leave or out of the office at the time of evacuation.

Organisations that are not able to provide enough trained fire marshals may (where practical) share marshals with neighbouring organisations, particularly within multi-occupancy buildings.

But there must be a formal written agreement to document this and all staff should be made aware of who their fire marshals are.

How often should fire equipment/the fire alarm be tested?

The testing and maintenance of fire precautions is a vital responsibility. All fire safety precautions must be maintained to a high working standard.

Alarms should be tested weekly – at the same time and day of each week (during normal business hours).

You are also legally required to keep an accurate record of checks. The record should be kept in the form of a fire safety log book.

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