It is well know by now that following the fall out of the Grenfell Tower tragedy the existing fire safety legislation has been heavily debated and criticised at the highest levels with government and public encouraging an overhaul of fire safety laws that will protect and keep safe all relevant persons whether that be in residential or commercial premises.
The Fire Safety Bill was introduced by the Home office in March 2020 and although it has encountered many hurdles through its passage between both houses of parliament, the bill has now received Royal assent and has become an Act of Parliament – The Fire Safety Act 2021
So, how can Health & Fire Safety teams within organisations tasked with these responsibilities prioritise safety and security throughout their Fire Prevention strategy.
A Fire Risk Assessment continues to be a legal requirement and promotes the long-term safety of both building occupants, and the building itself, against potential harm from fire and smoke. Businesses can either conduct an assessment themselves or bring in specialist risk assessors to provide extra peace of mind.
Addressing current risk assessments, ensuring that they are detailed, and containing step-by-step documents which identify the on-site areas that present a fire risk with itemised actions to help prevent incidents, is essential.
The Fire Safety Act 2021 is intended to better clarify who is responsible for managing and reducing fire risks in different parts of buildings. If a fire event were to occur, making the Responsible Person recognisable to the emergency services will be essential.
Similarly, with the introduction of the legislation, preparing staff and Responsible Persons with the necessary fire safety training can support the emergency services in carrying out their job effectively, should a fire regrettably occur. This is because, if individuals know the evacuation plan, and are aware of the processes needed to evacuate residents and employees, the emergency services will be in the best position to put out the fire and ensure minimal damage occurs.
Over recent years, due to the increased workload placed upon Local authority Fire safety departments, the number of audits carried out on premises has reduced drastically. Because organisations are not reminded of their responsibilities by means of visits, some organisations slip in their testing regimes bringing additional risk to their staff and property.
Fire alarms often detect unidentified fires before any person on-site and are thus a critical first line of defence. Regular checks on their performance are an essential fire safety undertaking. Testing regimes differ for different pieces of fire safety equipment and systems and the bare minimum as laid down by individual standards should be maintained,
but the more checks completed throughout the year, the better.
As the threat of fire is a constant worry for any business owner, all designated Responsible Persons must ensure that the premises are compliant with the recent Fire Safety Act 2021. Responsible Persons and businesses should prepare now for the additional responsibility.
Updating assessments, ensuring evacuation procedures work, making sure fire safety systems work correctly and staff are adequately trained will hopefully ensure businesses are in position to comply with the new act.
Brian Dean, Primary Authority Manager
Essex County Fire and Rescue Service