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Fire safety: How responsible are you?


Fire safety: How responsible are you?

We’re involved in managing buildings; we all know our responsibilities when it comes to fire safety, right?

We all know that should we have a visit from our local fire and rescue authority to check our fire procedures and prevention measures that they can act if they think our measures are inadequate.

We are also well aware that this could result in one of the following:

Alterations notice the building has high safety risks should its use change (and changing use is real possibility these days)

Enforcement notice an instruction to make changes if there are high risks that are not being managed effectively

Prohibition notice an instruction to immediately prohibit access or even close the building based upon the level of apparent risk

We are in no doubt as to the importance of complying with fire regulations and keeping people safe.  Our day job involves carrying out risk assessments and ensuring that adequate and appropriate fire safety measures are in place to minimise the risk of injury or loss of life in the event of a fire.

However, how often do we give thought to what a breach could cost, not just to the business but to us as individuals?  Have we considered recently that beyond the emotional impact, a breach could result in a responsible person such as ourselves facing a fine and even imprisonment? 

Furthermore, due to changes in the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order in March 2015, such a fine is unlimited.

The Lighting Industry Association (LIA) suggests: “This (change), in conjunction with new sentencing guidelines for health and safety offences, almost certainly means that fines for offences under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order are likely to increase.  Arguably, this makes compliance with the legislation even more important for business.”

A review of 200 cases undertaken by Warren Spencer, a fire safety solicitor who topped the fire safety category in the IFSEC Global Security and Fire Influencers 2018, seems to bear this out suggesting such fines are increasing and have risen by 35% since Grenfell.

The FIA Best Practice Guide to Fire Safety states: “Every year people die or are seriously injured as a result of fires in non-domestic properties. Besides the human risk, fire costs UK business millions of pounds due to property damage, fines, compensation, and insurance premiums. Many businesses find that they are not able to recover from the effects of a fire.”

Some well publicised fines include £200k on the AWE, £200k on the Radnor Hotel, £210k on the Chumleigh Lodge Hotel, £210k on the CoOp, £300k on Shell International and a substantial £400k on New Look following a fire at their Oxford Street store in 2007.

Whether we have considered this recently or not, it’s always a sobering thought. 

So how safe are our buildings? 

There are always things we can do to improve building fire safety, often for very little investment.

The FIA Guide notes that one key duty of the Responsible Person, either on their own or with any other Responsible Person “must do their best to make sure that everyone on the premises, or nearby, can escape safely if there is a fire. You should pay particular attention to people who may have a disability or anyone who may need special help.”

This is what Evaclite dynamic signage has been designed to address.  It can make a significant difference to any building for as little as a few £000 improving evacuation efficiency and helping to better manage risk. 

Evaclite signage is fully compliant, independently certified and easily retrofitted.  In an emergency every second counts and, when compared with conventional signage, it has been proven that in an emergency it:

  • Is seen twice as easily
  • Gets people moving in the right direction in half the time
  • Reduces congestion at fire exits by over one third
  • Reduces the average exit time for every occupant by 18%.

It increases the ‘safety factor’ and a bigger safety factor might just make us sleep that little bit better.

Every day we consider what can be done to keep our people that little bit safer. 

Perhaps now is the time to re-consider whether even simple compliance is truly sufficient and push harder for performance beyond compliance.  

Alan Ward