The surprising reasons why businesses are failing fire safety audits

Nov 17, 2021 | Fire Safety, Safe Working

The surprising reasons why businesses are failing fire safety audits

When thinking about safety regulations at work, it’s easy to think about ensuring your equipment is well maintained and compliant with the latest regulations. 

However, did you know that anyone who has “control of premises” must take reasonable steps to reduce the risk from fire and ensure a safe evacuation? Most businesses (and premises owners/tenants) are not aware of this, leaving themselves at risk of legal action while also risking the lives of others. 

Business and commercial premises are regulated by the RRO (The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005), which identifies a “responsible person” as legally responsible for ensuring the regulations are followed. With this, you are legally responsible for being aware of the RRO.  At the same time, it is our (or any other installation providers) responsibility to carry out works to the appropriate BS-5839 Regulations. 

But we also feel it’s our duty of care to help you understand what this means to you. 

Firstly, who is a “Responsible Person”? 

The RRO defines a “responsible person” as 

  1.  in relation to a workplace, the employer, if the workplace is to any extent under his control;
  2. in relation to any premises not falling within paragraph 
    1. the person who has control of the premises (as occupier or otherwise) in connection with the carrying on by him of a trade, business or other undertaking (for profit or not); or
    2. the owner, where the person in control of the premises does not have control in connection with the carrying on by that person of a trade, business or other undertaking.

In reality, this definition means that the “responsible person” could fall into varying job roles, from Landlords to Tenants, facilities managers, and operations managers. Therefore we advise all of our clients to assume they are the “Responsible Person” unless told otherwise, but if in doubt – ask!  

So now you know that you’re the “Responsible Person” for your business or premises. What next? 

Most importantly, you should read the RRO in full to understand your obligations (You might want to stick the kettle on and put your feet up while doing this!). 

However, to help you, you’ve summarised some of the critical areas we regularly observe non-compliance with the RRO. 

1) Up-to-date Fire Risk Assessments

As the responsible person, you are required to evaluate your premises to identify any potential risks and possible precautions you can take to prevent a fire. This risk assessment should be carried out by a person qualified to assess the building as a whole, considering the layout, use, occupancy, fire compartmentation, fire alarm grading, etc. 

Additionally, if more than five people are working within your premises or operating licensed premises, you must have your Risk Assessment in writing.  

But don’t forget, if anything changes, you must update the Fire Risk Assessment immediately. 

2) Displayed Fire Alarm Zone charts 

A Fire Alarm Zone Chart is a floor plan of your building that highlights any fire exits, stairs and the different fire alarm zones (i.e. where your fire alarms are installed). These are displayed next to the fire alarm systems to ensure any potential fires can be located immediately, without delay. 

Unfortunately, these are not always displayed and are a significant reason for non-compliance with legislation; it can also be the difference between life and death in the event of a fire. 

While this falls under the responsibility of the “responsible person”, we are always happy to help instal this as part of any fire alarm installation project. All we need is a diagram of the layout of your building, then leave the rest to us!

Fire Safey Manual3) Suitable Manual Call Points 

A manual call point is a fire alarm activation device that any user within the building can use to alert of a fire. Once activated, the device will notify the fire alarm’s control panel and initiate the emergency protocols. 

As part of your responsibility to reduce risk and ensure a safe exit of the building, manual call points should be located at suitable escape routes within your premises, in particular, next to exits from different floors and doors exiting the building. 

To ensure the manual call points are accessible, they should be installed no higher than 1.4 meters above floor level and no further than 45 meters from anywhere within the building. For buildings with individuals with limited mobility, or high-risk uses, the distance should be a maximum of 20 meters.

4) Weekly Fire Alarm Testing 

As part of your responsibility to ensure the safe working of all fire alarm protocols, you must conduct and log weekly tests of the premises fire alarm systems. This is to ensure that an evacuation alarm can be raised in the event of an emergency and all Fire Alarm Devices are activated. 

Now, this doesn’t mean you need to check every single manual call point every week. However, you should have a rotational process in place to check all the points. For example, if you have ten call points, you should rotate which one you test each week over ten weeks. Then at the end of the ten weeks, you reset and start again. 

If any issues are identified, they should be reported in the logbook, and your fire alarm maintenance company is informed immediately. 

5) Fire Alarm LogbookFire Alarm Log Book

While the RRO does not explicitly state that you must have a logbook, it does state that the “responsible person” must be able to demonstrate compliance with the order when audited. And it’s essential that you can do this quickly and with accuracy.

The most effective way to do this is to keep a physical logbook stored onsite in a location that is easily accessible. It should contain the details of your site and the fire alarm maintenance company, as well as a record of weekly tests, activations, faults and routine maintenance visits. It can also contain details on the emergency lighting and fire extinguishers.

However, the most important thing is that your Fire Alarm Logbook is kept up-to-date.

Commercial Fire Safety Training6) Employee Fire Safety Training

The final key area of responsibility is to ensure all employees are equipped with information and training about fire protocols. Fire safety training should ensure your team is aware of your prevention procedures (such as good housekeeping, risk awareness and smoking policies), what to do in the event of a fire, where to locate and use fire fighting equipment, and how to report near misses.

The level and regularity of training will depend on your team members’ particular responsibilities, so it’s helpful to plan and monitor this.

Useful links: 

Are you in need of help with regular fire alarm maintenance or a new fire alarm system? Contact us for a free chat today to see how we can help you remain compliant with your fire safety requirements.