12th December 2017
How likely are you to get a Fire Safety Inspection?
Statistics have recently been published showing the fire safety activities carried out by Fire and Rescue Services in England. Should you be expecting an enforcement visit any time soon?
Fire Officer’s Role
The Fire and Rescue Service (FRS) play a varied role. However, the main focus was diverted away from inspection visits to commercial premises about 18 years ago (at the same time as the demise of Fire Certificates) because it was recognised that deaths in fire occur predominantly in residential premises. This move has been a great success with deaths from fire falling year on year.
Fire Risk Assessments
The demise of buildings prerequisite for Fire Certification under the old Fire Precautions Act 1971 made way for the new self-assessment approach required under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. This imposes a specific legal requirement on the ‘responsible person’ of premises in the UK to ensure that a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment is carried out. This legislation applies to almost all premises where people could be working.
Enforcement in commercial premises
“Fire safety audit” is the term used by the authorities for what most would regard as an inspection, this is where the FRS would visit a site to check on the quality of the fire risk assessment undertaken and the suitability of the various fire safety measures in place (or not as the case may be!) There were 54,247 fire safety audits conducted in 2016/17, accounting for 4% of premises known to the authorities.
You’re most likely to receive a visit if you are in retail, run a licensed premises or a residential care home. These sectors received 20%, 13% and 14% of visits respectively.
The proportion found to be satisfactory remains fairly steady, at 68% in 2016/17. Therefore, a third of those businesses visited warranted some kind of action, a warning letter, enforcement notice, prohibitions notice or prosecution (see below).
Warning….. A visit can easily be triggered by a complaint or incident and if your fire safety standards are below par, there’s quite a high chance that you’ll receive some kind of enforcement action. To avoid this, check your compliance via an audit, or speak to one of our health and safety team on 0845 4591724.
Powers of the FRS
FRS enforce the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 for almost all places.
Inspectors from FRS normally enforce fire safety standards by giving advice on how to comply with the law. Sometimes FRS must order people to make improvements by issuing them with a notice. This is done through either an Enforcement Notice, which allows time for the recipient to comply or a Prohibition Notice which prohibits or restricts the use of all or part of the premises until remedial action has been taken.
FRS can also serve an Alterations Notice (under the Fire Safety Order) which places a legal requirement on the responsible person to inform the Enforcing Authority before they can make certain changes to premises.