Posted: Wednesday 23rd Sep
Fire safety legislation in the UK is enacted differently under the three jurisdictions of England & Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
These differences are nothing to worry about here as they are largely identical in terms of where they apply and what people have to do to comply with them. This is a gentle introduction to the subject and is not a substitute for more detailed government advice which is referenced towards the end of this article.
Where does it apply?
The law applies to virtually all premises and covers nearly every type of building, structure and open space:
• Offices and shops
• Premises that provide care, including care homes and hospitals
• Community halls, places of worship and other community premises
• Pubs, clubs and restaurants
• Schools and sports centres
• Tents and marquees
• Hotels and hostels
• Factories and warehouses
Where does it not apply?
The law does not apply to people’s private homes, including individual flats in a block or house.
In England and Wales the law applies to the common parts of flats and HMOs, but not in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Broadly, the law does not apply to the underground parts of mines or off-shore installation. It also doesn’t apply to anything that flies, floats or runs on wheels unless it is static and being used like a building, e.g. Work in dry dock.
Who is responsible?
The person responsible for fire safety is anyone* who has, to any significant degree:
• Control of the premises (e.g. the owner and the managing agent)
• Control over the activities on the premises (occupier)
• Employs people
*In many instances this will be a company or other organisation
They are responsible for the safety of people who may be:
• Legitimately, on the premises
• Who is not on the premises but might be directly affected by a fire on the premises
In many cases, responsibility may be shared between several people but it is not the responsibility of the fire service or any other statutory body.
What do you need to do?
The person responsible (or persons if there are more than one), must make sure that everyone is safe from fire. If that is you, you or a person engaged by you must carry out a fire risk assessment to determine what the risks are and to identify those measures necessary to minimise the risk to an acceptable level.
More on Fire Risk Assessments
The guidance documents that support fire law recommend a five stage approach to fire risk assessment.
Fire authorities are the main agency responsible for enforcing the law. Fire authorities will look into complaints, carry out investigations after fires and carry out targeted inspections. Where poor fire safety management is discovered they may prosecute.
If there is a very serious risk to life, the fire authority can issue a notice preventing the premises being used for certain things, or preventing people from using all or part of the premises.
Fire Safety Law
The following legal instruments are the principal pieces of legislation which govern fire safety in the UK and are the ones specifically referred to in this document.
England and Wales
• The Regulatory Reform (fire safety) order 2005
• The Fire (Scotland) Act 2005
• The Fire Safety (Scotland) Regulations 2006
• The Fire and Rescue Services (Northern Ireland) Order 2006
• The Fire Safety Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2010
Fire Certificates and old legislation
The above legislation amended many other pieces of legislation. It also repealed or revoked, among others:
• The Fire Precautions (Workplace) Regulations 1997
• Fire Precautions (Workplace) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2001
• Fire Precautions Act 1971
The Fire Precautions Act required the Fire Brigade or Local Authority to issue a Fire Certificate for certain classes of premises. The authorities no longer issue Fire Certificates and those previously in force will have no legal status but don’t throw them away. Any fire certificates you have may be useful as a starting point for your fire risk assessment.