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Fire Safety - What does the law require UK businesses to do

Conducting a fire risk assessment and acting on the findings are a key requirement under the RRFSO.  Compliance rates are not as good as they could be and the Fire Rescue Service is keen to prosecute firms that don’t conform. Out of 68,000 fire safety audits carried out (2007/2008), the Fire and Rescue Services reported that 40% were judged to be unsatisfactory.* While many were dealt with informally, well over 4,000 faced some sort of enforcement action.

Conducting a fire risk assessment will not only identify risks to those working within the business, but also risks to members of the public or visitors to the premises. Responsibility for carrying out an adequate risk assessment lies with the ‘Responsible Person’. This is usually the employer, although for some commercial properties the landlord or managing agent can also have responsibilities.

The purpose of the risk assessment is to identify and record any hazards and reduce them to an acceptable level. These can include flammable materials such as solvents or packaging, or activities that could give rise to ignition. It should take into account the characteristics of the building and the number of people present on the premises, including staff and visitors.  
If the company employs more than five people, a system for managing fire safety must be recorded. In addition to a risk assessment, this should include a fire safety policy, incorporating procedures for evacuation. Fire fighting equipment should also be provided and staff should be familiar with how to use it.
It is vital to communicate the findings of the risk assessment to employees, especially supervisors so that the risk of fire can be reduced. Any fire drills or exercises should be carried out to ensure employees understand what to do in the event of a fire.
A fire poses great risks for any business and the importance of carrying out a fire risk assessment cannot be overemphasised as the lives, property and business resilience depend on it.
*Source – Fire and Rescue Service: Operational Statistics Bulletin for England 2007/2008. p18
Andrew Couch – Consultant – Aviva Risk Management Solutions Ltd
If you need assistance completing your fire risk assessments Aviva Risk Management Solutions can help. They offer training to allow you to complete them yourself or one of their team can complete the fire risk assessments on your behalf. For more information, visit their website or call 0500 55 99 77

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