Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about business fire safety
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Can a fire appliance get to my premises?
There is currently no legislation that permits the Fire and Rescue Service to enforce requirements for access to existing premises. If there is a problem you should contact your local police and your local council's roads and highways department.
The provision of access for Fire Service vehicles to the exterior of new buildings or extensions to existing premises should be in accordance with Section 16 of the latest version of Approved Document B (Fire Safety) - Volume 2 - Buildings other than dwelling houses, published in support of the Building Regulations.
The standard provision for access for Fire Service vehicles in residential areas is that they should be able to approach to within 45 metres of an access door (usually the front door). In the case of larger buildings the requirement changes with increases in floor area, and height.
Reference should be made to the above document for more detailed information.
Access roads should be a minimum of 3.7 metres wide with 'pinch points' (i.e. gateways or similar constrictions) of no less than 3.1 metres. The minimum height clearance should be 3.7 metres, with a minimum carrying capacity of 12.5 tonnes.
How can I stop arson in the workplace?
Did you know that the most serious fire risk to your premises is from deliberate fire?
If you own or manage a business then the following questions should be considered.
- Are perimeter fences secure and in a good state of repair?
- Are entrance gates kept to a minimum and well supervised?
- Is security lighting installed and operating efficiently?
- Is CCTV installed?
- Is access to the roof via drainpipes and trees denied?
- Are access doors to the building kept to the minimum compatible with the requirements for means of escape?
- Are these access doors available only from the inside (secured by a single fastening operated without the need for a key)?
- Are windows and skylights intact and secured outside of working hours?
- Do you stack combustible storage against the outer wall of the building or adjacent to the perimeter fence?
- Has there been any recent examples of vandalism and graffiti in the area?
- Is there an effective access control system?
- Has an intruder alarm been installed?
- Are critical areas of the building illuminated out of working hours?
- Is there an effective system for the secure storage of raw materials and finished products?
- Is waste material kept to a minimum and securely stored?
- Is access to flammable liquids, gases and other chemicals denied to the intruder?
- Is access to ignition sources denied to the intruder?
- Are contractors adequately supervised?
- Are you aware of any discontent amongst members of staff?
More detailed guidance on minimising arson in the workplace is available from the West Midlands Arson Task Force website. Read the guides on 'Keeping Your Business in Business' and 'Keeping Your School in Business'.
How do I manage fire safety?
Ensuring fire safety in a building is a prime function of any manager. The terms 'manager' or 'management' should be taken to apply to the person who has overall control of the premises at any particular time while people are present.
An essential part of the management's duties in respect of fire safety is the training of staff. All staff, including part-time members, cleaning staff and contractors need to be familiar with the actions to be taken in the event of fire, with how to call the Fire and Rescue Service, basic fire prevention and with the exits and exit routes provided.
Fire safety training needs to be a continuous feature commencing on the first day of appointment of new staff and continued in the form of regular refresher training. The training should be based on written instructions appropriate to their specific responsibilities in the event of emergency and should be delivered by a competent person.
Staff with specific duties in the event of fire and staff having a supervisory role should receive additional training and detailed instruction in their own duties.
The basis of fire safety is the fire routine. Staff need to know how to act on discovery of fire or on the raising of the alarm. It is essential that the management draws up an effective routine which covers all possible types of situation, from a false alarm to a major incident. The fire routine needs to take into account the types of activities that take place in the premises, the fire precautions provided and, above all, the fire warning system that is available. The fire routine may be drawn up following the fire risk assessment of the premises.
Management is responsible for ensuring that all necessary fire safety features are available and in working order and that no undue fire risks are present. It's important to ensure that exit doors can be easily and immediately opened, exit routes are free from obstruction, are lit and that combustible waste has been removed.
Management procedures should ensure that control is exercised over parking of vehicles on service roads used for Fire Service access, so that appliances are not obstructed and are able to proceed to within the required distance of any fire main, foam or other inlets.
It is vital that all employees are aware of the particular risks associated with hazardous substances and practices that may be encountered.
Where additional risks are introduced anywhere in the building, advice needs to be obtained from the appropriate authorities.
What the law requires
Article 11 - (1) of the FSO (Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005) requires that the responsible person must make and give effect to such arrangements as are appropriate, having regard to the size of his undertaking and the nature of its activities, for the effective planning, organisation, control, monitoring and review of the preventive and protective measures.
(2) The responsible person must record the arrangements referred to in paragraph (1) where:-
- (a) He employs five or more employees
- (b) A licence under an enactment is in force in relation to the premises or
- (c) An alterations notice requiring a record to be made of those arrangements is in force in relation to the premises
A fire risk assessment template and log book that can assist you with this requirement can be downloaded from the Documents and downloads page.
Further guidance can be found on the Fire risk assessment guides page.
What actions do I have to take to protect disabled staff and members of the public?
The Disability Discrimination Act introduced in 1995 sought to ensure that disabled employees, visitors and students, whatever their disability, should be treated as well as people without disabilities and according to their needs.
It is illegal to treat a disabled person less favourably in relation to employment, goods, services and facilities, and to place them at a substantial disadvantage to people without disabilities. This means that disabled people must be included in any fire evacuation plan.
An employer, building manager or service provider has to take reasonable steps to change practices or procedures that could make it difficult for a disabled person to access goods facilities and services. This makes it necessary, for example, to change evacuation procedures so that they cater for the needs of the disabled.
A service provider is also required to take reasonable steps to remove any physical barriers that make it unreasonably difficult for disabled people to make use of services. This may result in the physical modification or adjustment to the premises or the provision of special equipment.
Read the fire risk assessment guide Means of Escape for Disabled People.
What firefighting equipment do I need?
Information on the number of fire extinguishers you should have can be found on the page on fire risk assessment guides or by contacting an approved fire extinguisher supplier.
The following guide gives you information for making a reasoned assessment of the type and quantity of firefighting equipment you need: Joint Protocol - Portable Fire Extinguishers
You can also read more about fire extinguishers here.
What fire safety training should I give to my staff?
Training should be should be given upon induction and preferably a second time within the first month of employment. Refresher training should be given at least once a year. Training should be undertaken by a competent person and a record kept in a logbook. It can be carried out in house or by a reputable company. Fire instruction should be given to staff in respect of the following:
Discovering a Fire
Staff should be made aware of the method of raising the alarm in a premises, this should include the position of manual fire alarm call points and their method of operation.
Hearing the fire alarm
Staff should be trained in the evacuation procedures in their workplace. They should be shown escape routes and final exits and also be made aware of fire doors and their purpose in protecting escape routes.
Staff should be shown the designated Fire Assembly Point and made aware of the need to ensure they have been accounted for.
Calling the Fire and Rescue Service
Staff should be informed about the agreed method of contacting the Fire and Rescue Service and the location of telephones.
Use of fire extinguishers
Staff should be trained in the safe use of fire extinguishers. It is not acceptable to assume that employees are not expected to use an extinguisher and therefore they don't need to know how to use one.
More information on fire safety training can be found on the Fire risk assessment guides page.
What is a fire risk assessment?
The FSO requires that the responsible person must carry out – or appoint a competent person to carry out – a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks of fire to their employees and others who may be affected by their work or business. If you employ five or more employees, you should keep a formal record of any significant findings and remedial measures which you have taken or may need to take.
If you need to appoint a risk assessor, check the criteria in our document Choosing a competent risk assessor.
In a risk assessment, it is necessary to identify the areas that people frequent, whether they are your employees, customers, visiting contractors etc. Attention should be paid to sources of ignition, sources of fuel and work processes.
Evaluate the risks
- Are existing fire safety measures within the premises adequate?
- Are sources of fuel and ignition controlled?
- Is there adequate means for detecting fire and giving warning?
- Is there adequate means of escape in case of fire from all parts of the premises?
- Has adequate and appropriate firefighting equipment been provided? Is it suitably located?
- Is there an adequate testing and maintenance regime in place for fire precautions within the premises?
- Have employees been adequately trained in fire safety procedures within the premises and in the use of firefighting equipment?
Sources of information
Guidance for carrying out a fire risk assessment of your premises can be viewed and downloaded from the fire risk assessment guides page. View and download a fire risk assessment template and guidance notes from the Documents and downloads page.
Are fire certificates still valid?
The introduction of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 saw the repeal of the Fire Precautions Act 1971 and consequently the requirement for certification.
The Fire Safety Order came into force in October 2006 and from that date all existing fire certificates are not valid.
When and how do I test fire safety equipment?
The maintenance of fire precautions is one of management's most important considerations in any premises.
Fire detection and alarm systems including self-contained smoke alarms and manually operated devices
- Check weekly
- Check all systems for state of repair and operation
- Test operation of self-contained smoke alarms and manually operated devices
Automatic emergency lighting
- Check monthly
- Carry out function test of all self-contained luminaires
Portable lamps or torches
- Check daily
- Check availability and correct operation of equipment
Fire fighting equipment including hose reels
- Check weekly
- Check all extinguishers including any hose reels for correct installation and apparent function
There is a serious legal and moral obligation to maintain a satisfactory standard of all fire precautions provision, from the daily checking of the means of escape to the routine checking of extinguishers.
There is also a legal requirement imposed to provide and maintain accurate records on fire precautions. This can best be achieved by the use of a fire safety log book.
Maintenance of Fire Safety Measures
All fire safety systems and equipment should be subject to a suitable and adequate programme of maintenance. This maintenance programme should be carried out in accordance with the relevant British Standard or the equivalent, this will normally involve much of the work being carried out by a 'competent person' ( a person with the appropriate knowledge and training to carry out the task). However many of the routine items can be carried out by the user.
The main user tests are listed below. Equipment Period Action Fire detection and alarm systems including self contained smoke alarms and manually operated devices Weekly Check all systems for state of repair and operation Test operation of self contained smoke alarms and manually operated devices.
Automatic emergency lighting Monthly Carry out function test of all self contained luminaires Portable lamps or torches Daily or at the beginning of a working shift Check availability and correct operation of equipment. Fire fighting equipment including hose reels Weekly Check all extinguishers including any hose reels for correct installation and apparent function.
Details of companies in the field of maintenance of fire safety equipment and systems can be found by consulting the local telephone directory
Information on maintenance and testing of fire safety arrangements can be found in the Fire Risk Assessment guides page
Read our information on fire extinguishers.