Health and Safety News

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What are employers' fire safety duties?

photo shows a building on fireEmployers, building owners and other people responsible for commercial buildings have a duty to put necessary fire safety precautions in place to all reasonable and practicable extents. This is seen in health law under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, which applies to all non-domestic properties.

The 'responsible person' is obliged to comply with the Fire Safety Order. Fire safety risk assessments must take into account the health and safety of all relevant persons, with particular attention given to certain at-risk teams, like children, people with certain mental health problems or learning difficulties, and people with disabilities. It should also consider any hazardous substances that are kept in the building.

The responsible person and relevant persons

Relevant persons are considered to be all people who are lawfully on the commercial property, as well as any other person who is around the premises and is at risk of a fire.

Responsible persons are considered to be the employer in a workplace, as well as anyone else who controls any part of the building, such as owners or occupants. Many commercial premises have more than one responsible person, and in this situation, all responsible people must work together to ensure the fire safety of people.

Enforcing the Fire Safety Order

This health law is enforced through fire authorities, which have a statutory duty to control the risk of fires leading to personal injuries and damaging the health and fitness of the public, as well as to enforce this legislation. They fulfil this duty by performing fire safety inspections, which are prioritised in consideration of their potential to cause loss of life and serious injuries. They may also consider the strategic value, potential environmental costs or heritage risks of a building fire when deciding to perform inspections.

Preventing personal injury claims caused by workplace fires

Businesses should consider where their flammable substances are stored and take steps to reduce the likelihood of these being affected by fire. There is guidance available for the storage of hazardous substances - responsible persons who feel they are unable to adhere to this guidance should speak with professionals for more assistance.

Risk assessments should consider the likelihood of fire, and employers should use these risk assessments to put control measures in place that can effectively control these risks and that can ensure relevant persons can get to safely in the event of a fire without later making an accident at work compensation claim. This could involve appointing members of staff as fire safety representatives, and training these staff in how to evacuate the building safely, as well as holding fire drills and regularly testing fire alarms.

Complicated premises may require a more comprehensive risk assessment by someone who has training in fire risk assessments. Responsible persons who do not feel that they are adequately controlling the risk of fire in their workplaces should deal with this problem immediately - any delay could be catastrophic.


Hellen researches accident at work compensation claims on behalf of a team of Lancashire no win no fee solicitors. She likes the springtime, long walks on the beach, and feeding the squirrels in the park, and one day would like to write a best-selling novel. She has already written the first few pages several times.

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