Legal Article - Health & Safety

Fire Procedures in the Workplace

Under the Fire Precautions Act 1971 all motor vehicle premises employing more than 20 people, or more than 10 persons on a floor other than the ground floor, must apply to the local fire authority for a fire certificate.

Prior to the issuing of a certificate the owner or occupier of the premises is under a duty to:

• Maintain existing means of escape
• Maintain existing fire extinguishing equipment
• Ensure all employees receive adequate instruction and training in what to do in the event of fire
• Continue to ensure the safety of employees as far as is reasonably practicable.

The fire authority has the power to exempt premises from the need to have a fire certificate, but once issued it must be kept on the premises.

The certificate will specify:

• The use or uses of premises it covers
• The means of escape from fire
• The means of securing that the escape routes can be safely used e.g. emergency lighting, direction signs, fire or smoke stop doors, safety signs etc.
• The storing of any explosives or highly flammable materials
• The means of raising the alarm (usually an electrical fire alarm system)
• The means for fighting fire e.g. fire extinguishers, hose reels etc.

These must not be changed without first obtaining the fire authority’s permission.

In addition, specific requirements may be imposed such as:

• Regular fire drills
• Instruction of occupants in fire matters
• The keeping of records
• Other managerial duties e.g. regular testing and maintenance of fire equipment
• A limit on the number of persons who may occupy the premises at any one time.

Non-certificated premises must have an adequate means of escape and adequate means for fighting fire.
Under the Health and Safety etc at Work Act 1974 and subsequent Regulations general duties are placed on all companies and employers to take all reasonable practical steps to protect the health and safety of people on their premises.

In the case of fire hazards this would include taking all the actions described above and in addition the following action is required:

• Management must undertake a risk assessment and any fire hazards, or potential ones, must be eliminated or reduced in some way
• The results of the risk assessment, especially any hazards identified and the action to be taken to remove or reduce them, must be communicated to all employees who may be affected
• A person should be nominated to be responsible for fire safety and trained
• Good standards of house keeping should be maintained e.g. no smoking policies enforced; all rubbish removed safely; fire exits kept clear.

Published: 23 Mar 2011


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