Guides & Advice

Fire Safety Guides & Advice

Fire regulations and fire safety in commercial premises is controlled by The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. You find a huge amount of complicated, confusing and misleading information online, so to help business owners through this minefield, we provide free advice, templates and training to give you the definitive information you need.

Every business must comply with the current fire regulations set out in The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. Failure to do so will leave the business owner, the person installing or servicing the equipment, and anyone carrying out a risk assessment, open to prosecution.

Fire Regulations & Advice

 
Fire regulations and fire safety in commercial premises is controlled by The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. You find a huge amount of complicated, confusing and misleading information online, so to help business owners through this minefield, we provide free advice, templates and training to give you the definitive information you need.
 
Every business must comply with the current fire regulations set out in The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. Failure to do so will leave the business owner, the person installing or servicing the equipment, and anyone carrying out a risk assessment, open to prosecution.
 
In the course of installing and servicing fire equipment, we have seen many dangerous practices carried out in the name of safety – often when a customer sincerely believes they are doing the right thing. With this in mind, we’ve created this page to highlight some common pitfalls with fire regulations.

Fire Risk Assessments

If you employ 5 or more people anywhere in the UK, you must have a documented fire risk assessment. Included in these 5 people are part time staff, non-paid staff and directors. A fire risk assessment ensures legality and compliance with safety legislation – in this case the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

All fire regulations and fire safety activity must be carried out by a ‘competent person’, which the Order defines as someone with:

‘Sufficient training and experience’ or alternatively they must possess ‘knowledge and other qualities’, which will in both cases, enable them to properly carry out the task at hand’.

Even when businesses get it right and there’s a good fire risk assessment in place, it’s easy to forget that it isn’t a one-off job. The general rule is that these assessments are carried out annually, unless changes to the structure of the building take place, in which case a full review of the fire risk assessment must take place.

Handy Fire Risk Assessment Guide

Free Fire Risk Assessment Template

Fire Alarms

Weekly Testing – Automatic fire alarms should be tested weekly to ensure that they work; details of these tests need to be recorded in a fire logbook. The company that services your fire alarm should also train you on how and when to complete these tests.

6 Monthly Tests – BS 5839 require fire alarms in a commercial setting to be tested every 6 months by a competent person, and suitable certificates supplied to ensure the system conforms to current standards (BS5839).

Zone Chart – BS 5839 requires pictorial zone charts to be supplied on the fire alarm panel, detailing the different zones the fire alarm is separated into. This is not only for the benefit of the customer, but also the fire brigade should they require access to the building outside of normal hours. In 80% of the automatic fire alarms we see, there is no zone chart in place.

Handy Fire Alarm Guide

Handy Fire Alarm Levels Guide

Emergency Lights

Emergency lights are fitted with a battery backup, so that in the case of power failure they’ll illuminate internal escape routes out of the building. All buildings will generally require emergency lights installed in specific locations as detailed in BS 5266. Emergency lights should be serviced to BS5266 at least annually.

Common errors are lights not being serviced to British Standards, not being serviced often enough or at all, lights being installed in the wrong position or no emergency lights where lights are needed.

Handy Emergency Lights Guide

Fire Extinguishers

Over Supply - There are unfortunately many companies in the UK that pay their engineers commission when new equipment is installed. This unfortunately creates the temptation to install more equipment than is strictly necessary. On average, we find that customers’ previous suppliers have oversupplied them with at least 20% more extinguishers than they actually need.

We will often speak of equipment being serviced to BS 5306 (extinguishers) or BS 5266 (emergency lights); the BS in these codes refers to ‘British Standards’ – British Standards are the standards produced by BSI Group which is the National Standards Body for the UK. These standards are the code of practice by which all fire safety professionals must work.

Servicing Standards – Extinguishers should be serviced to BS 5306; to do this each different type of extinguisher requires a set regime of servicing. Quite often we find that engineers from some fire companies have not been servicing to current standards, even though the labels and certificates they have supplied advise that they are. The type of problems we note are:

  • Failure to weigh extinguishers and record the weights
  • Hoses and horns not sufficiently tightened
  • Gauge seals missing
  • Servicing labels fitted over previous servicing labels, any of which are against the code of practice laid down in BS 5306

Buying From the Internet – Some companies opt to purchase extinguishers from the internet and install them. BS 5306 states that all new equipment must have a commissioning service on installation; this should be carried out by a fire regulations servicing company, or someone who is trained in extinguisher servicing and can competently fit the extinguishers in the correct locations. A certificate of inspection should then be provided for the work carried out. When reviewing installations undertaken by customers without professional assistance, we nearly always find that they’re incorrectly fitted, in the wrong locations, show no understanding of compliance issues and are quite often the wrong extinguishers.

Incorrect Extinguishers – Powder extinguishers are generally classed as the most adaptable and cost-effective extinguisher in the marketplace. Powder extinguishers put out most fires extremely quickly. However, they have very limited use and should never be used generally in places such as offices, care homes, hospitals etc. Powder extinguishers restrict visibility and breathing and can destroy electrical items. They should only be used either in the open air, or in places with the room for the powder to dissipate into the atmosphere – places such as warehouses or plant rooms where their usage will not obscure visibility.

Handy Fire Extinguisher Guide

Fire Training

It’s still the case that most companies do not realise that it is their responsibility to appoint a sufficient volume of staff to implement basic, safe firefighting on their premises. These staff, usually called fire wardens or fire marshals, should have extra training on what to do in the event of a fire, how to safely evacuate other occupants, and how to identify and deal with a small fire safely.

Many companies are still under the impression that their role is to evacuate the building and leave the rest to the Fire Service. This is no longer the case; recent studies have shown that in 90% of cases, staff who are trained in firefighting can extinguish a fire safely before it becomes serious, reducing the impact of fire on the building, the business and to staff.

The fire service states:

“Make it clear that firefighting equipment should be considered as a possible means of reducing a risk of fire spreading, providing protection and for providing assistance to others… it should also be considered as a possible means of mitigating the detrimental effects of a fire”.

Handy Fire Training Guide

Evacuation Drills

 
Most companies will be required to do at least one fire drill annually and maintain records of this. Some companies with higher potential risks or greater impacts on individuals in the case of a fire might have to do this more often.
 
A drill should test the whole process of what happens in the case of a fire. No one knows when or where a fire could start, and drills should include all possible scenarios. Examples should include (where possible) blocking escape routes as if a fire were in that location and seeing how staff behave, positioning a member of staff in a toilet or hidden area to see if they are found on a building sweep, and creating scenarios with different types of fire and locations to test that a fire warden is able to simulate the correct response and locate the closest and correct extinguisher.
 
We always recommend a post evacuation exercise to ascertain if the evacuation plans and procedures match what occurred in the fire drill.

Security Advice & Recommendations

Contrary to popular belief, the majority of burglaries are committed by opportunist thieves. They choose premises that have no obvious signs of security, or where they think they won’t be seen. If they have succeeded once, they can be motivated to try again.

It’s important that you review your security and act quickly if you need to upgrade it.

Many organisations do not respond quickly to a burglary. Often security will only be improved after the stolen property has already been replaced, so now’s a good time for you to determine the risk of crime to your premises. You should introduce some changes to prevent or reduce any further loss before you purchase new equipment.

All your staff should be encouraged to identify any security risks as it’s in everyone’s interest to ensure the security and success of your business.

General Security Advice

  • Clearly define the boundary of your premises. This will help inform visitors that they’re entering private property. This can be achieved by using fences, walls, gates, landscaping and clear signs.
  • Where possible, have one entrance/exit point to minimise the opportunity for unauthorised access. This should be indicated with clear signage.
  • Ensure that all staff are briefed on the security procedures, particularly those who may be in the building outside normal working hours.
  • Identify any features in your premises that could provide cover for intruders and remove or improve them. Examples include recessed doorways, concealed yards, landscaping and poorly lit areas.
  • Ensure that access to the roof area is restricted, by removing vulnerable features such as low walls, low roofs or downpipes.

Doors, Windows & Locks

 
There’s a wide range of doors, windows and locks that will provide your premises with additional security. Some things to think about include:

  • The location of the doors/windows
  • The location and value of the property
  • The value or desirability of the goods or information within the premises
  • The risks relating to the loss of, or interruption to the business
  • The use of additional security technology, including CCTV, intruder detection equipment and asset marking systems.

 
For information on door, window and lock security, please visit www.securedbydesign.com for relevant standards and details of approved security companies.

During Working Hours

  • Use simple security measures such as wearing identification badges whilst on the premises to help prevent unauthorised access.
  • Visitors’ identification should be checked when they enter. Ensure they sign in and out and issue them with visitor badges.
  • Brief all staff and encourage them to challenge people not wearing the correct identification badge.
  • Escort visitors to and from their destination.

After Working Hours

  • Always use security lighting inside and outside the building when not in use.
  • Ensure that contract staff are supervised.
  • Consider employing security personnel – particularly at times such as evenings, weekends or during holiday periods.

Preventing Theft

  • Valuable items should be locked away in secure rooms or put into purpose-built containers when not in use.
  • Rooms containing valuable equipment should be kept locked and alarmed when not in use.
  • Security mark equipment with an ultra-violet marker or other commercial marking system to identify the owner and to deter thieves.
  • Advise all employees to protect and secure their personal property whilst on the premises (use lockers etc) and advise employees not to bring valuable items to work.
  • Keep any cash on the premises to a minimum and keep it secured.

Alarms

 
An intruder alarm can deter potential burglars, but it’s not a substitute for good locks, and if you’re considering one it’s important that you choose the right one. The Police receive thousands of calls every year and very few are genuine alarm activations.
 
There are many alarms available, from cheap systems which you can fit yourself, to more expensive and sophisticated systems, which need to be installed by professionals.
 
There are two types:

  1. Audible alarms – a bell or siren sounds but the Police will only respond if someone confirms suspicious activity or has seen someone breaking into your house.
  2. Monitored alarms – if the alarm is activated, a monitoring station can check why and notify the Police or a nominated keyholder.

 
For an alarm to be effective and legal it should:

  • Meet the appropriate British or European Standard set by your insurance company
  • Be maintained regularly and inspected by a member of the National Security Inspectorate (NSI) or Security Systems and Alarm Inspection Board (SSAIB)
  • Cut-off after 20 minutes
  • Be professionally installed

Lighting

 
Unlit areas can provide hiding places for burglars, and good lighting can act as an excellent deterrent as it draws attention to them.
 

  • Fit outside lights out of easy reach at a height of at least 2.5m (8 feet).
  • Low-energy lights controlled by a dusk to dawn sensor or switch are the most appropriate and can cost less than 1p per night.
  • Floodlights with a movement sensor are the most effective but can be annoying to neighbours so make sure they are directed downwards and within your own property.

Some sensors are separate to the light and can be positioned to cover vulnerable areas.

CCTV Systems

 
CCTV systems can be an effective and useful tool for crime prevention and can help the investigation of crime. Careful consideration must be given to placement and management of any CCTV system. For the system to be effective you should follow this advice:

  • Clean the camera lens and recording equipment regularly.
  • Store all recording equipment and recorded material in a locked cabinet. This is to ensure that a thief cannot remove evidence whilst committing an offence.
  • If using tapes, have one tape clearly identified for use every day of the month. Use a tape 12 times a year only.
  • Store a recorded tape or digital image for 31 days before recording over it.
  • Tapes must be changed regularly to ensure you’re recording a clear image.
  • Replace tapes annually.
  • Ensure that time and date settings are correct. This will avoid confusion about when the incident occurred. It also removes the opportunity for the defendant to challenge the evidence of recordings in court.
  • Display signs to warn the public that they are being recorded.
  • Face a camera towards the doorway so you get a clear head and shoulders image of everybody entering and leaving the premises.
  • To avoid recording a silhouette image when cameras are pointing at doorways, you should have a backlight to limit the effects of the sun shining through the doors.

 
Any CCTV system must be registered with the Information Commissioner to comply with the Data Protection Act. In order for the CCTV system to be legal there must be clear signage stating:

  • The name of the operator
  • The purpose of the system e.g., crime prevention
  • A contact telephone number.

 
For further information on the legal requirements for using CCTV, contact the Information Commissioner on 01625 545700 or go to www.ico.org.uk
 
Security marking improves the chances of recovering your property if you’re unfortunate enough to suffer a loss. It can also assist in any investigation and provide valuable evidence, which may lead to a successful prosecution.
 
Always mark items in a prominent position to deter potential thieves. Check the security markings of the relevant items at least once every 12 months. Various methods of security marking are available, and these include:

  • Labels, plates and stickers
  • Post coding
  • Engraving and chemical etching
  • Barcodes
  • Chemical trace
  • Tracking devices
  • Identification tags
  • Micro-marking
  • Registration databases
  • Serial number and warranty databases
  • Photographic databases.

 
If you use one of these methods, you should ensure that it identifies that the item belongs to you. Every item should have a secure and visible mark that will help to return it to you. If you require any further security advice, then please contact us.

Book Your Free Compliance Check

As part of our complementary Compliance Check service, we'll discuss your current fire safety and security measures, and explain all applicable regulatory requirements.  We'll then suggest practical, pragmatic steps to help you improve your compliance and better protect your people, premises and property.

The Compliance Check is not a sales appointment, and there is no obligation to use FireCare, nor commit to anything further.

Book your complementary Compliance Check today, and get peace of mind that your business is better protected. 

WE’LL KEEP YOU COMPLIANT