The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRFSO), which extends to non-domestic premises and the communal areas of houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) in England and Wales, charges the “responsible person” with the safety of everyone on the premises at any time, whether working, visiting or sleeping there.
The duties of the responsible person(s) are specified in articles 8 through 22 of the RRFSO, encompassing the need to take general fire precautions, undertake a fire risk assessment and make appropriate fire safety arrangements, to include “the effective planning, organisation, control, monitoring and review of the preventive and protective measures” (article 11).
This requires a comprehensive system of checking, maintaining and repairing all fire safety equipment on an on-going and regular basis, together with the appropriate level of training in fire safety for any employees. All tests and maintenance must be recorded as it is a legal requirement, by virtue of the RRFSO, that the fire safety activities of the responsible person(s) can be audited by the relevant authorities at any time.
In addition, HM government guidelines advise of the need to create a plan to deal with any emergency and keep a record of your findings together with any action taken in consequence, to include instructing / training relevant others in the organisation (“A short guide to making your premises safe from fire”). It is also important to undertake a regular review of your fire risk assessment, as over time the situation can change: for example, if the use of the premises alters, or the building itself undergoes structural modification.
The more detailed HM government fire safety risk assessment guides for specific types of non-domestic premises, e.g. small / medium / large places of assembly, offices and shops and sleeping accommodation, advise of the benefits of keeping a fire safety log book. The following is an extract from “Fire safety risk assessment: offices and shops” (May 2006, p 105):
“7.1 Fire safety records Keeping up-to-date records of your fire risk assessment can help you effectively manage the fire strategy for your premises and demonstrate how you are complying with fire safety law. Even if you do not have to record the fire risk assessment, it can be helpful to keep a record of any co-operation and exchange of information made between employers and other responsible people for future reference. In larger and more complex premises, it is best to keep a dedicated record of all maintenance of fire-protection equipment and training. In all cases the quality of records may also be regarded as a good indicator of the overall quality of the safety management structure. Your records should be kept in a specified place on the premises (for example, in the management’s office).”
At p 29 of this publication, there is guidance on the types of fire safety equipment and installation that require regular checking and maintenance and the test schedules appropriate each, from fire exits and fire doors through fire / smoke alarms and emergency lighting to fire extinguishers and hose reels. Not all will apply to every building, and the guide does note that the examples are not intended to be prescriptive, but this comprehensive approach offers a useful insight into the various elements of fire safety provision that should be considered, depending on the size, usage and occupation of your premises:
- Remove bolts, padlocks and security devices from fire exits,
- ensure that doors on escape routes swing freely and that fire doors close fully and check escape routes to ensure they are clear from obstructions and combustible materials.
- Check the fire alarm panel to ensure the system is active and fully operational.
- Where practicable, visually check that emergency lighting units are in good repair and working.
- Check that all safety signs and notices are legible.
Weekly tests and checks
- Test fire-detection and warning systems and manually-operated warning devices weekly following the manufacturer’s or installer’s instructions.
- Check the batteries of safety torches and that fire extinguishers and hose reels are correctly located and in apparent working order. Fire pumps and standby diesel engines should be tested for 30 minutes each week.
Monthly tests and checks
- Test all emergency lighting systems and safety torches to make sure they have enough charge and illumination according to the manufacturer’s or supplier’s instructions. This should be at an appropriate time when, following the test, they will not be immediately required.
- Check that fire doors are in good working order and closing correctly and that the frames and seals are intact.
Six-monthly tests and checks
- A competent person should test and maintain the fire-detection and warning system.
Annual tests and checks
- The emergency lighting and all fire fighting equipment, fire alarms and other installed systems should be tested and maintained by a competent person. Some fire extinguishers can be tested by owner (Britannia P50).
- All structural fire protection and elements of fire compartmentation should be inspected and any remedial action carried out.”
You can purchase printed logbooks or simply download a free Fire Safety Log Book to ensure that you address all the appropriate issues in respect of fire safety in your premises. As well as being a useful tool for monitoring and recording all relevant activities, the Log Book will also act as an aide memoire for all the on-going checks, maintenance and repairs of equipment required, together with training and review procedures.
January 4, 2013[Last updated: January 4, 2013]