Fire Safety for Commercial/Business Premises
Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service’s (TWFRS) Fire Safety Department is responsible for making sure that all workplaces, including common areas found in blocks 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 and Petroleum regulations are also enforced.
The Fire Safety department identifies premises which may be at higher risk of fire and works with the Responsible Person to make sure that they have adequate plans in place to ensure that they and anyone who may use their premises are safe from fire.
TWFRS has 20 Inspecting Officers working within the Fire Safety Department. They are managed by 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 risk assessment, 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 obstructed/blocked, that appropriate means for raising the alarm in case of fire are in place, this may include an automatic fire alarm system which is 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 are responsible 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 approximately 30,000 premises in the Tyne and Wear area.
Individual business premises are given a ‘priority rating and audited accordingly i.e. the higher the risk rating and poorer compliance score, 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 priority and are, therefore, audited more often.
TWFRS has a rolling programme of audits for workplaces, averaging around 3,500 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; a 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 seminars for different types of businesses to remind them of their legal responsibilities.
Engagement and Enforcement
Staff engage with businesses business and the commercial sector with the aim of raising their level of education regarding their responsibly for fire safety. There are various levels of enforcement that TWFRS can utilise to carry out its function. This ranges from providing education and information to the Responsible Person, to serving legal notices that have set timescales for the completion of any work identified.
TWFRS also has further powers which enable it to restrict the use of part or all of a non-domestic property or to prohibit the entire use of the 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 Responsible Persons 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.
The Service provides the local media with press releases regarding prosecutions and they can be found on the News Section on the website www.twfire.gov.uk
For out of office media enquiries please contact our Control Room on 0191 444 1069 and ask to speak to a Flexi Duty Officer.