On October 1st, 2023, new fire safety guidelines came into play in the UK. And this means some significant changes for businesses, housing providers, and local governments. The aim is to provide increased protection for all commercially operated buildings and their occupants.
With more than 300 fire-related deaths occurring in the UK each year, and around twenty thousand commercial property fires annually, fire safety is imperative for anyone who is in charge of a business premises, irrespective of its function. The new fire safety guidelines take this into account, enhancing the steps that all businesses, housing providers, and local governments need to take in order to comply with the amended Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
Understanding the Changes to Fire Safety Guidance for Businesses, Housing Providers and Local Governments
What are the changes to fire safety guidance that commercial property owners will face?
There are five main changes to the fire safety regulations that came into effect on October 1st, 2023.
All businesses, housing providers, and local governments will need to record their Fire Risk Assessment (FRA) in full – rather than just the significant findings, as was previously required. And this applies to businesses of all sizes, rather than just those with five employees or more.
The identity of any person appointed by the person responsible for the business to assist with Fire Risk Assessment must be recorded.
You must record any fire safety arrangements made by the appointed person on behalf of the business.
You must ensure that all reasonable steps are taken to determine whether there are any other people responsible for the premises, or have duties within the premises.
And you will be required to take steps to inform those people of your contact details – name, address, or proxy in your absence – and which part of the premises you consider yourself to be responsible for. Ensure a record of this information in securely kept.
In addition to these actions, a sixth point is scheduled to be introduced at a future (as yet unfixed) time. Although this isn’t an immediate compliance issue, most organisations will find it easier to prepare for the change now, while implementing the other matters.
Fire Risk Assessments must only be made and reviewed by a competent person. So if you are appointing someone to assist you with this task, they must know what they are doing (in most cases, this will mean working with a professional fire protection service).
Additional changes for owners of a house in multiple occupation
Following the terrible events of 2017 and the Grenfell Tower fire, fire safety guidelines for houses in multiple occupation (HMO) have been under particular scrutiny. Consequently, as well as the above legislation changes, owners of a building which contains two or more sets of domestic premises, will have an additional fire safety requirement:
To provide detailed and yet easily understandable fire safety information to all residents about the fire safety matters relating to their building that are relevant to them.
This will mean including information such as:
Any risks to residents of the HMO that have been detected by the Fire Risk Assessment. This will usually require more than simply presenting tenants with a copy of the FRA, because if they are not familiar with the document, format, or some of the terms used within, they may not understand the risks fully.
The measures that have been/will be/or should be taken to protect the resident against these risks. Any fire safety measures yet to be implemented should be given a fixed timescale for completion. Residents should also be fully informed of any fire safety measures required to be performed by them – such as ensuring that fire doors are never blocked.
The name and contact details of the building owner – or any proxy who will be responsible for the HMO and its fire safety standards during the time of the resident’s occupancy. This is no longer just a matter of courtesy. Occupants should be able to contact a building owner or manager at any time for fire safety matters.
The details of any person or company appointed by the owner or other responsible person, to assist with Fire Risk Assessment creation or review.
The details of any person or company appointed by the owner or other responsible person, to advise or assist with non-automatic fire-fighting equipment.
Any fire risks relating to the property that may be shared by a third party – and the name and contact details of that third party. This will usually relate to properties in multi-storey buildings. And is to ensure that all areas of the building are covered, and all aspects of fire safety are adhered to. Removing the risk of any undetected fire hazard.
Any fire safety duties relating to the property that may be shared by a third party – and the name and contact details of that third party.
Any other issues relevant to the occupants of the building, as specified in the fire safety guidelines.
Having the correct fire safety measures in place is the responsibility of all commercial building owners and managers.
It’s the only way to help protect the lives of the building’s occupants, contents, and the building itself. But if that wasn’t enough of an incentive, anyone found to have flouted the regulations could find themselves facing a fine for minor infringements, or a prison sentence for more serious faults. So, it’s in everyone’s best interest to ensure that your properties remain as safe as they possibly can be.
At 1st Class Fire Protection, we have more than 25 years’ experience supporting the businesses of Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, and the surrounding areas with professional Fire Risk Assessments and fire safety services. Get in touch to find out how we could help you.