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Fire kills: ensure tenants or staff are not at risk

Author: Emma Beazley

The recent tragedy of the Grenfell Tower emphasises even more how important it is that those responsible for fire safely in both commercial and domestic premises regularly review their procedures and ensure fire safety is adhered to.

Who is responsible for ensuring fire safety?

Those responsible for fire safety include employers, property owners, landlords of both domestic and commercial premises, occupiers and anyone else with control of the premises, for example managers responsible for health and safety. If there is more than one person responsible then they should work together to meet their responsibilities. It is important to be proactive and not to assume that someone else will deal with fire safety.

There should be a fire risk assessment of the premises carried out and reviewed regularly. This is particularly important where the layout of business changes or where buildings are extended or modified in any way.

Anything that poses a risk should be addressed urgently. Appropriate fire safety measures should be put in place and maintained and should include plans for an emergency and provision of information, fire safety instruction and training to staff and occupants. Bear in mind that residents or staff may be on holiday when such information or training is provided and additional steps should be taken as soon as possible to ensure that they are also provided with the appropriate information and training.

Apart from the obvious risk to those residing or working in the building, those responsible for fire safety also risk a fine or even prison if they fail to follow fire safety procedures. Any fine and sentence are likely to be significantly increased where they follow a fire where people are injured or killed as a result.

Non-domestic buildings can be inspected at any time by the Fire Safety Enforcement Officers from the local Fire and Rescue Service.  As well as carrying out the inspection, Enforcement Officers will also speak to staff to check their knowledge and training to ensure compliance. Any breaches identified can be dealt with in a number of ways depending on the seriousness of the breach. This could be:

  • Minor breaches – informally dealt with
  • More serious – by issuing an enforcement notice, which sets out what needs to be done to comply with the law
  • Premises constitute serious Risk – an alteration notice which sets out what must be addressed to reduce the risk to a satisfactory level
  • Imminent danger – the use of the building will be prohibited or restricted until the risk has been reduced to an acceptable level

Prosecution can be initiated in all of the above cases. Failure to comply with fire safety procedures may also render any insurance in respect of a subsequent fire void.

If you are responsible for the safety of others – don’t delay, act now!