Fire Safety for Commercial/Business Premises
Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service’s (TWFRS) Fire Safety Department are responsible for making sure that all workplaces, including common areas of flats, are regularly audited to ensure they have proper fire safety procedures in place and to ensure they fully comply with the relevant legislation, the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (FSO) is the main piece of legislation but other legislation such as the Manufacture and Storage of Explosive Regulations are also enforced. They identify premises which may be at higher risk of fire and work with the Responsible Person to make sure that they have proper plans in place to ensure that they and anyone who may use their premises are safe from fire.
TWFRS has 29 Inspecting Offices working within the Fire Safety Department. They are managed by two Station Managers and work in the five local authority districts in Tyne and Wear (Newcastle, Sunderland, Gateshead, North Tyneside and South Tyneside). Inspecting Officers are trained in all aspects of fire safety and work with key local partners such as local councils and the Health and Safety Executive to ensure that Fire Safety law is upheld.
What is the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005?
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 came into effect in October 2006 and replaced over 70 pieces of fire safety law.
The FSO applies to all non-domestic premises in England and Wales e.g. offices, shops, care homes, community halls, pubs, clubs, restaurants, schools, marquees, hotels, hostels, factories and warehouses. It also includes the common parts of blocks of flats and houses of multiple occupation (HMOs). The law applies to anyone who is:
- responsible for business premises
- an employer or self-employed with business premises
- responsible for part of a dwelling where that part is solely used for business purposes
- a charity or voluntary organisation
- a contractor with a degree of control over any premises
- providing accommodation for paying guests.
Under the FSO, the responsible person must carry out a fire safety risk assessment, and implement and act upon any significant findings from the assessment.
A fire management plan should also be instigated and should include ensuring fire exits meet legal requirements and are not blocked, that appropriate fire alarms systems are in place, maintained and working and that staff are adequately trained. This is to protect staff working in the premises, as well as visitors and customers.
Fire and Rescue Services areresponsible for ensuring that all premises covered by the FSO are regularly audited to ensure they have the correct fire safety arrangements in place. Currently, TWFRS has responsibility for over 30,000 premises in the Tyne and Wear area. Individual business premises are given a ‘risk’ rating and audited accordingly i.e. the higher the risk rating, the more often it is audited. Due to the nature of the premises places such as residential care homes and hospitals which provide sleeping accommodation are usually considered ‘high risk’ and are, therefore, audited more often.
TWFRS has a rolling program of audits for workplaces, averaging around 4,500 per year. On an ad hoc basis, the Fire Safety team also carry out ‘themed’ inspections in various premises such as the ‘Candle with Care’ campaign in public houses and restaurants and the current campaign to highlight the risks within premises with commercial deep fat fryers which has been highlighted after a number of serious fires in Fish and Chip shops. The team also holds regular fire safety semin
ars for different types of businesses to remind them of their legal responsibilities.
There are various levels of Enforcement that TWFRS can utilise to carry out its function these range from providing Education and Information to the Responsible Person to legal notices that have set timescales for the completion of any work identified.
TWFRS also has further powers to restrict the use of part or all of a premises where the risk to employees/people using the premises is too great. This is a Prohibition Notice and is served on the Responsible Person. All Notice’s that are served by TWFRS are available for public viewing either on the Service website or by appointment at the Service Headquarters in Washington.
In a rare number of cases, TWFRS has prosecuted where conditions are so bad that lives have been put at risk. The Responsible Person is liable to heavy fines and, in the most severe cases, a custodial sentence if found guilty.
Most recently, TWFRS successfully prosecuted Jesmond Court Ltd for breaching fire safety regulations which led to a customer suffering serious burns from a tealight placed on a shelf in Mr. Lynch’s bar in Jesmond in November 2007, in September 2008 Ultimate Leisure, owners of Sea Nightclub, were charged for a similar incident where a customer received serious burns and Bowland Lodge Care Home in February 2011 for deficiencies found following a fatal fire.
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