All fire safety legislation in England and Wales is gathered under the Regulatory Reform Order (Fire Safety) 2005 designed to simplify the existing legal requirements at the time.
It states that employers must ‘ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the safety, health and welfare at work of his or her employees’.
The person in control to any extent of the workplace should ensure a safe workplace, safe access, and safe articles or substances.
Because the Health and Safety Executive view the common areas of blocks of flats as places of work then this legislation also applies to those responsible for fire safety in these areas which are the freeholder landlord, the Resident Management Company or the managing agent.
The Act also clarifies under s12 (elimination or reduction of risks from dangerous substances) that consideration must also be given to the safety of persons other than employees within the workplace. Everything reasonably practicable must be done to ensure that all individuals at the place of work are not exposed to risks to their safety and health. In addition section 15 places obligations on landlord’s who own (but are otherwise unconnected) with a workplace to ensure that there is safe access and egress from the place of work.
Under s8 of the Act (duty to take general fire precautions) employers should obtain, where necessary, the services of a competent person who should possess sufficient training, experience and knowledge having regard to the task and the size or hazards (or both) of the undertaking. Suitability must be assessed in the light of the specific intended functions. The competent person should demonstrate knowledge of current best practice in the sector and be prepared to supplement gaps in training. The appointment of a competent person does not absolve the employer of his or her responsibilities under the legislation.
Under s19 of the Act, (provision of information to employees) employers are required to carry out risk assessments and to record these in the Safety Statement. They should be specific to the premises and if they are not carried out, or the recommendations from such assessments are not implemented then, if a fire-related incident occurs, the consequences will determined by the courts. A fire safety risk assessment should be conducted and should include:
- Fire Prevention;
- Detection and Warning;
- Emergency Escape and Fire Fighting.
The specific needs of of any employees must also be taken into consideration to ensure they are protected agains dangers that may affect them.
In 2009, fire risk assessments were no longer carried out on blocks of flats like ours (which is in the photograph) but periodic visits from the fire brigade did lead to us being advised that as we were not a ‘closed’ block we did not require an external fire alarm system. The fire officer did make reference to the possibility of an early warning system that would interconnect all flats with each other so that if a fire started in one of the flats then the alarm would go off in all of them. Not too clever if someone simply keeps burning toast (his words not mine!)
Another suggestion was the possibility of having just one alarm installed in a single flat on each floor, so if a fire should break out in that particular flat then others in the block would be warned. He finished by saying that these are not legal requirements, simply something to bear in mind for future reference.
We were however required to ensure that an emergency action plan should be formulated and placed in strategic points throughout the building which we subsequently implemented.