Ultimate guide to fire safety for commercial businesses

 

 

What are the current UK fire safety regulations?

If you are responsible for a business or commercial premise, you have a legal duty to ensure your building or workplace is safe for the people using it, including reducing the risk of fire.

By law, you must carry out regular fire risk assessments and ensure your premise has adequate fire safety measures and equipment in place, such as fire alarms and extinguishers. These must be regularly maintained, serviced and tested. Failure to do so can result in loss of life, fines and even imprisonment.

In England and Wales, the requirements for fire safety are covered by the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. In Scotland, they are covered in Part 3 of the Fire (Scotland Act) 2005 and in Northern Ireland they are covered in Part 3 of The Fire and Rescue Services (Northern Ireland) Order 2006 and The Fire Safety Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2010.

What is a fire risk assessment?

A fire risk assessment evaluates the hazards that a fire presents to a premises and the people in it. These will vary by building.

It is a legal requirement for anyone who is responsible for a business or commercial premise, also known as the ‘duty holder’, to complete one regularly. This includes business owners, commercial building owners, employers, landlords and public building owners.

A fire risk assessment generally follows these key stages:

1)Identify fire risks, including:

-Sources of ignition, which could start a fire. These include heaters, lighting, any naked flames and electrical equipment, as well as any other items that get very hot or cause sparks

-Sources of fuel, which burn easily. These include paper, rubbish, plastic, wood, rubber and foam. Furniture should also be included

-Also think about any sources of oxygen, including air.

2)Identify the people at risk

3)Evaluate the risks

4)Remove the risks or identify solutions to reduce the risk and improve safety, such as installing or improving fire alarm systems, fire extinguishers and other fire safety equipment, or improving training

5)Create an emergency plan and provide any training required to the people using the building

6)Review and update your fire risk assessment regularly.

Read the HSE’s advice on completing fire risk assessments

How often do I need to do a fire risk assessment?

It is recommended that a fire risk assessment is carried out at least once a year.

Can I do my own fire risk assessment?

Yes, the duty holder can carry out fire risk assessments and the government offers fire risk assessment guides to help different types of businesses to do this.

However, if you are not confident that you can meet the standards required, or have multiple sites, you may want to seek professional support. Inadequate fire risk assessments can cost lives and businesses.

phs Compliance has over 30 years of experience in fire safety and can conduct professional fire risk assessments annually on your behalf, helping to identify any hazards and ensure you remain safe and compliant.

Testing fire safety equipment

It is a legal requirement that all fire safety equipment is maintained, serviced and regularly tested. This includes:

-Fire/smoke alarms

-Fire extinguishers

-Fire blankets

-Fire hose reels

-Sprinklers

-Signage

-Emergency exits

What are the fire alarm regulations?

By law, fire alarm systems must be ‘adequately maintained’ at all times.

The UK government recommends that all fire alarm and detection systems should be installed and maintained in accordance with British Standard BS 5839.

This standard recommends that fire alarm systems should be inspected and serviced by a ‘competent person’ at least once every six months.

Duty holders are also required, by law, to test their fire alarms on a weekly basis. This is not only to check they are working, but to familiarise building users with the sound of the fire alarm.

The date and time of every test should be recorded and appropriate action taken immediately if there is a fault.

Can I do my own fire alarm test?

Any fire alarm test must be carried out, by law, by a ‘competent person’ – that is someone with sufficient knowledge, experience or training to carry out the work to the required standard.

Fire alarms are complex systems so it is very important that the person conducting the checks knows what they are doing. Failure to complete the test properly could cost lives, as well as the building and business.

It is always advisable to have a professional carry out servicing and tests to ensure compliance and maintain safety.

phs Compliance is a fully accredited specialist in the testing, servicing and maintenance of fire alarm systems to BS 5839 standard, with nationwide coverage.

Our expert engineers test and support all leading fire systems, from conventional systems to high-end, fully addressable systems, including Gent, Advanced, Morley and Kentech.

How do I maintain my fire alarm system?

It is your legal duty to ensure your fire alarm system is fully functional at all times. The best way to do this is to test your fire alarm system weekly, keep up regular maintenance and have it serviced every six months.

Dust and dirt can affect smoke detectors and poor maintenance and damage can cause faults. These often cannot be visually identified.

A professional fire alarm engineer can carry out a thorough inspection every six months, ensuring your systems are safe and compliant, protecting your people and your business.

All fire alarm systems are different but, generally, a fire alarm inspection will include:

-Testing and calibrating sensors, including smoke and flame detectors

-Simulating inputs and testing the annunciators

-Setting the sensitivity

-Checking for corrosion and battery life

-Coordinating with the fire department to test input to their system.

This level of inspection requires an in-depth knowledge of the system, different sensors, failure modes, reinstallation requirements and fire detection theory.

phs Compliance’s fully qualified and experienced engineers work with all the leading fire alarm systems and required protocols to the highest industry standards, giving our customers peace of mind.

Do I need to keep a record of fire alarm testing?

If you employ five or more people, it is legal requirement to keep fire safety records, but it is good practice in general for all businesses to keep a record. You may need to provide evidence of your compliance, usually in the form of test certificates, and this is often a requirement for insurance companies too.

What are the fire extinguisher regulations?

By law, fire extinguishers require regular maintenance, checks and servicing to ensure they are in good working condition. The government recommends they are installed and maintained according toBritish Standard BS 5306.

Failure to comply can result in fines and even imprisonment, not to mention loss of life.

How often do I need to test fire extinguishers?

Fire extinguishers should be checked monthly by the duty holder, and serviced annually and tested at least every five years by a professional.

Can I do my own fire extinguisher test?

By law, the test must be carried out by a ‘competent person’ – someone with sufficient knowledge, experience or training to carry out the work to BS 5306 standard. It is always advisable to have a professional carry out servicing and tests to ensure compliance and maintain safety.

phs Compliance provides a comprehensive fire extinguisher maintenance and testing service and we are fully accredited under the stringent standards of the British Approvals for Fire Equipment (BAFE).

Monthly checks can be carried out by the duty holder if they have sufficient knowledge and training. These checks should include:

-Ensuring the extinguisher is full, charged and ready to use

-Checking its visibility and ease of access

-Looking for signs of physical damage and ensuring the tamper seal is intact

-Checking the pressure gauge (if it has one) is green.

Any problems identified must be immediately resolved.

Do I need to keep a record of the fire extinguisher testing?

Yes, it is good practice to keep a record of all testing completed but, if you employ five or more people, it is legal requirement. You may need to provide evidence of your compliance, usually in the form of test certificates, and this is often a requirement for insurance companies too.

Staying compliant

Understanding the UK’s complex fire safety regulations and ensuring you are compliant is vital. Spot checks are common and not following regulations can have a devastating impact on businesses, as well as lives. It is not an area to cut corners.

phs Compliance is a leading specialist in fire equipment safety and testing with 30 years of experience. Accredited to the highest levels in the UK, our team of fully qualified and experienced engineers offer a nationwide service, allowing you the peace of mind that you will always be safe and compliant with phs.

Contact one of our team today to discuss your fire safety compliance requirements.

Worried about how to test your business’ electrical equipment? Read our free guides to PAT Testing and Fixed Wire Testing.

Enquire About phs Fire & Safety

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