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Fire safety regulations (UK): an industry guide

Whichever industry you work in, the importance of understanding and complying with fire safety regulations must never be overlooked. Protecting the lives of employees, visitors and residents is crucial and fire safety regulations are in place to ensure standard practises and accountability for building owners.

Here, we offer a guide to fire safety regulations in the UK.

UK Legislation

In Scotland, fire safety is stipulated by the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 and Fire Safety (Scotland) Regulations 2006, whereas in Northern Ireland, legislation includes the Fire and Rescue Services (Northern Ireland) Order 2006 and Fire safety Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2010.

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRFSO) applies to England and Wales and was introduced to clarify accountability for fire safety in workplaces and commercial premises. While there are other pieces of fire safety legislation that pre-date this, the RRFSO crucially highlights the need for premises to appoint a responsible person (the owner or manager) to be responsible for fire safety.

A crucial role of the responsible person is to perform a fire risk assessment. This is designed to identify fire risks and fire safety procedures before taking action to implement or make changes to minimise and reduce the impact and likelihood of those risks.

All industries in England and Wales are subject to the RRFSO, but the extent to which businesses and premises must go to in order to maintain fire safety varies greatly depending on their individual fire risks. For example, a factory may need adequate procedures and equipment in place to minimise the risk of a Class C (flammable gases) fires, whereas an office would not.

Fire safety regulations for commercial kitchens

Commercial kitchens have a number of unique fire risks which must be addressed thoroughly. For example, with the frequent use of cooking appliances, oils and fats, there is a serious risk of both electrical and Class F fires. These are especially dangerous as using the wrong type of fire extinguisher can cause Class F fires to spread and endanger more lives.

As stated in the RRFSO, the responsible person will identify fire risks during a fire risk assessment before taking measures to minimise and reduce each risk. For commercial kitchens, this would include installing and maintaining wet chemical or multi-class fire extinguishers, such as the CommanderEDGE MultiCHEM high-performance ABF-rated fire extinguisher, specifically designed to combat cooking oil and fat fires. The responsible person must also install fire detection systems and protective equipment like fire blankets, as well as ensure the safe and efficient disposal of waste to reduce the risk of obstructions to fire exits and escape routes.

Fire safety regulations for commercial buildings

The responsible person for a commercial building is required to conduct a fire risk assessment and ensure all fire safety equipment is adequate, accessible, and in working order. This means fire extinguishers should be suitable for the classes of fire that could potentially occur in the building.

For example, most commercial buildings would be at risk of Class A (carbonaceous materials such as wood, paper and textiles) fires and electrical fires. In England and Wales, fire extinguishers capable of safely tackling these classes of fire must be kept accessible onsite and protected from accidental damage and tampering, as stipulated in the British Standards. However, depending on the specific fire risks of the commercial building, other types of fire extinguishers may be required.

In addition to this, fire safety signage must be installed throughout the premises to offer guidance in the event of an emergency. This includes fire extinguisher ID signs, which are displayed on fire extinguishers and show the type of fire extinguisher and which classes of fire it can and cannot be used on, as well as fire exit, fire door, and assembly point signs. Learn more by reading our detailed guide on the categories of fire safety signs.

Fire safety regulations for landlords

In rented properties and shared accommodation, the landlord or building owner is considered the responsible person and is obliged to ensure the safety of their properties as much as is reasonably possible. There are a number of fire risks for rented properties that landlords need to consider, including cooking appliances, electrical equipment, naked flames (candles and cigarettes), and fire escape routes.

All appliances should be tested and certified to reduce the risk of a fire from faulty equipment, while evacuation routes should be assessed and adjusted where necessary following a landlord fire safety risk assessment. To learn more about fire safety responsibilities as a landlord, read our guide to fire safety for landlords.

Visit the CheckFire Resource Centre to benefit from more comprehensive guides, expert advice and detailed information on sector-specific fire safety. For regular updates regarding fire safety products and industry updates, sign up to the CheckFire newsletter.

The content of the CheckFire blog is for general information purposes only. While we make every effort to ensure accuracy at the time of publication, under no circumstances should it be considered professional advice. Any reliance you place on the information is at your own risk. Always seek the advice of a fire professional for your particular circumstances and requirements.
  • by Amy Moseley

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