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Jonathan Hughes, Associate Director, Capita Health and Safety Training and Litigation. He leads the health and safety training and litigation business, and designs and delivers a range of health and safety, and fire safety training and consultancy services. 

November 20, 2014

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Fire safety: a third of businesses are non-compliant

According to the latest government statistics, more than a third of non-residential premises audited last year by FRAs (fire and rescue authorities) were not fully compliant with the government’s Fire Safety Order.

Action was taken in 12,932 premises as a result of non-compliance with the order. The worst performers were licensed premises – only 52% of 8,200 licensed premises audited were satisfactorily compliant. 30% of 4,900 offices and 29% of 6,000 factories and warehouses, were also found to be non-compliant.

This is even more concerning when we look closer at the data; just 3% of premises in England and Wales were checked last year, so who knows what the standards were like in the other 97%. It’s quite possible that there are hundreds of thousands of non-domestic premises that are breaking the law, risking fines, potentially invalidating their insurance and most worryingly, endangering the safety of workers and the general public – these could include shops, factories, schools, offices, warehouses, restaurants, pubs and public buildings.

The areas in which premises were most commonly non-compliant were articles 9 – risk assessment; 14 – emergency routes and exits; and 17 – maintaining precautions. This is somewhat frustrating, as these common areas of non-compliance can be swiftly identified and managed with the correct advice and guidance.

It is essential we really promote how important it is to get a thorough and robust fire risk assessment completed in premises by someone who is suitably trained and experienced. In many cases it is actually the simple things that cost nothing to do – like clearing fire exit routes – which make a big difference.

Better training must also play a key part in fire safety management. Business owners need training to alert them of their responsibilities and the legal requirements of fire safety. Managers and supervisors need training to adequately implement the management standards and controls identified within the fire risk assessment. Fire marshals need training in the crucial role they play in preventing fires and then dealing with emergency situations, and then training of employees to play their part in ensuring the fire safety of the premises.

Clearly something is failing – potentially a third of English and Welsh businesses aren’t complying with the law. What can the health and safety industry do to change this? Are industry regulations too complex and, therefore, part of the problem? The RRFSO made significant improvements in consolidating the previous collection of regulations, but is it still too confusing for businesses? If not, what can we do about it to get the message out there, and get our businesses compliant in such a crucial area of safety?

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Iain Sanderson
Iain Sanderson

Note that these figures are not UK. The Fire Safety Order is not UK legislation Northern Ireland and Scotland have their own so the entire UK picture is not presented here.

Mark Rowland
Mark Rowland

Hi Iain, thanks for the heads up. We’ve now changed the article to reflect this.