Fire safety: Put safety first

Related tags Safety Occupational safety and health Law

Next year will see a tightening up of fire safety regulations. Mike Williams of Safesmart explains everything you need to know.Licensed premises have...

Next year will see a tightening up of fire safety regulations. Mike Williams of Safesmart explains everything you need to know.

Licensed premises have long been a popular target for fire officers carrying out safety checks. Pubs normally receive at least one visit per year and this time-consuming and often unwelcome attention is about to become an even greater worry for publicans across the UK.

Changes to fire safety regulations will be introduced early in 2005. Coupled with last year's new corporate manslaughter legislation it will shift the legal responsibility for fire safety firmly into the hands of licensees.

Current legislation will be tightened, requiring pubs to review their existing fire safety practices and put in place additional controls.

The onus will be on the person responsible for the premises to safeguard all occupants in the building and the immediate area, not just employees.

This has a particular impact on any business in a public place - licensees will be responsible not only for their customers and employees but anyone else in the immediate vicinity.

The fire service will be responsible for policing the fire safety arrangements made by businesses and it is expected that the new regulations will be heavily enforced.

The issuing of fire certificates will cease, freeing up the fire service to focus on making sure businesses are complying with the law.

So what are my obligations?

There are currently a number of key legal duties that a publican is obliged to undertake. These include:

  • carrying out a full fire risk assessment
  • maintaining adequate fire precautions to safeguard people in the workplace
  • providing adequate fire safety training for employees
  • drawing up an emergency plan.

In addition, any employer is bound by further legal duties relating to the dissemination of information and involvement of all parties in fire safety precautions.

Is there anything I can do now to prepare for the new legislation?

Firstly, fire risk assessments need to be carried out and regularly reviewed. Licensees should arrange for a fire risk assessment to be completed by a qualified person with experience and knowledge in relation to fire. This person will come to the pub, find out where the risks lie and draw up a detailed report. It is then the licensee's responsibility to ensure the pub has adequately complied with the regulations.

In addition, you must decide how often basic health and safety checks should be carried out between inspections.

These processes should be written into the health and safety manual with clear details provided for the people responsible for ensuring compliance.

Do I need to train my staff?

The law states that every employee must be trained in fire safety. This training can take place in-house and, increasingly, can be offered online.

It should include what to do in the event of a fire, where fire escapes and exits are positioned, the correct exit procedure from different parts of the building and, when and if appropriate, how to operate a fire extinguisher. All new employees must be trained before they start work.

What will the new legislation mean?

Currently you only have to prove that systems are in place on paper and there is little the fire service can do if the work is not actually undertaken as prescribed.

This softly-softly approach is expected to change with the new legislation. Simply having a system will no longer be enough. If pub managers do not make sure every fire safety procedure is carried out as specified they will be liable for prosecution.

So how can I ensure that fire safety procedures are actually carried out?

The procedures can take up a huge proportion of a publican's time if they are not implemented and managed in an effective and efficient way. While risk assessments, training programmes and safety checks can all be managed through manual processes, in a workplace increasingly driven by technology, an automated approach may be more suitable.

There are now automated systems that enable businesses to not only design, implement and monitor fire safety processes but guarantee that the business stays within the law at all times.

The system will automatically check that the relevant processes have been carried out and will flag it up if they haven't.

The ability to demonstrate compliance in this way can help insurance companies with their risk assessments and pubs that can prove they are fire-safe could be offered lower premiums.

When the law changes and fire officers take on a stronger policing role, publicans can demonstrate to the fire brigade that the pub is complying with the regulations. An automated system may therefore reduce the number of visits from fire officers.

Over the next few months all publicans will have a significant amount of work to do to ensure that they do not leave themselves open to the risk of prosecution.

But with careful planning and the implementation of rigorous systems, you can rest assured you are operating within the law.

Fire safety checklist

  • Complete regular fire risk assessments
  • Provide clear health and safety guidelines to all staff
  • Ensure that all staff, full-time and part-time, are trained in fire safety
  • Carry out regular safety checks
  • Put in place a fail-proof system for monitoring the above
  • Ensure you have all the correct fire safety equipment to hand - stored in the right place - ie. kitchen, bar.

Special offer

Safesmart is offering readers of The Publican a 20 per cent discount on its fire safety services. Simply call Safesmart on 0870 127 3999 or visit and quote reference PBSS08-04.

Offer applies for fixed term three-year contracts only and on orders placed before September 30, 2004.

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