The Regulatory (Fire Safety) Order 2005 – or FSO – came into effect in 2006 and the Order dictates that where premises exist as a workplace, the employer is usually the person/organisation responsible for fire safety.
Therefore, it is vitally important that employers have a firm understanding of their fire risk management responsibilities.
Below we share some of the recent questions we’ve been asked by employers when it comes to their responsibility for fire safety …
What are my legal obligations when it comes to providing fire safety training to my staff?
As an employer you are responsible for the training of your staff regarding fire safety measures and must provide all relevant fire safety information to your employees.
Not only should your staff be trained and informed, but records should also be maintained to evidence compliance with the FSO and to show the extent of the training undertaken.
Failure to comply may lead to an offence being committed: Articles 19 and 21 of the FSO are clear in this respect.
If my staff are fully trained, do they take fully responsibility for fire safety?
No, by law, employers can still be liable for any wrongful acts of their employees under the Fire Safety Order.
For instance, you may have ensured your staff have been well trained and given all the required information regarding what to do in the event of a fire, the best fire safety policies and procedures may also be in place in compliance with the FSO, but, if a member of staff puts the lives of others at risks, even if this is going against what he has been trained or told to do, you can still be liable.
As stated in Article 32 (11), “nothing in this order operates so as to afford an employer a defence in any criminal proceedings for a contravention of those provisions (contained in the Fire Safety Order) by reason of any act or default of-an employee of his;”
Therefore, even if an employee does not follow the correct company procedures, you are nonetheless responsible for the actions of your staff.
I don’t actually work from the business premises, can I assume that means I’m not responsible for breaches in fire safety legislation?
It states in Article 3 of the FSO that if “the workplace is to any extent under his control,” then an employer can be impeachable as a “responsible person”.
So, although many employers have no fixed workplace (i.e. carers, cleaners or other sub-contractors), under Articles 19 and 21 it could still be argued that they have a duty to provide fire safety management to employees, ensuring they are provided with relevant fire safety training.
Therefore, because you are expected to ‘have control over your employees’, the FSO often applies even in circumstances where you do not have direct control of the workplace.
Is it true that as a director I can be personally liable for the actions of the company?
It is true that a company can be prosecuted as a distinct legal entity. However, where an offence under the FSO has been committed by a company and there is evidence to suggest the acts or omissions of a director/manager have contributed to the committing of the offence, then said individual director/manager can be personally liable. And whereas a company can only be fined, you as a director could receive a prison sentence of up to 2 years for each offence.
To protect myself from prosecution, is it best if I just hire someone to help sort fire safety in my business?
Simply using other fire safety specialists to conduct fire risk assessments and fire alarm maintenance etc. is not enough. Article 18 dictates that the responsible person must ensure the competence of anyone undertaking protective/preventative measures on behalf of employers.
This may require a due diligence type exercise in assuring that those you instruct to carry out fire safety management responsibilities in your company have sufficient knowledge, qualifications and experience. Failure to do so would lead to a breach of Article 18 by you, the employer.
I’ve heard that if a third-party is paid to conduct a fire risk assessment, it’s still my responsibility as the employer to ensure it is suitable and sufficient?
Yes this is correct. As required by Article 9, fire risk assessments should be suitable and sufficient for the premises in question. Article 18 does not apply to the instruction of fire risk assessors and there is no universally recognised qualification or accreditation needed for a person to become a fire risk assessor, thus ultimate responsibility for the suitability and sufficiency of a fire risk assessment rests with you as the employer.
Should I have a fire safety policy in place?
Yes – all employers should have a fire safety policy, which identifies a person responsible for fire safety at board or management level.
Numerous sets of guidance for differing types of premises have been provided by the Government, all stating that organisations should devise their own fire safety policy. This should cover things such as the appointment of someone at board level who is responsible for the fire safety throughout the company/organisation; identifying the people responsible for fire safety at each set of premises the organisation is responsible for; and arrangements to check that the requirements of the FSO are met by each individual person responsible for fire safety.
Failure to comply with this aspect of the order may result in an offence being committed under Article 11.
We share the premises with another business, what’s the rules around fire safety?
In terms of fire safety management, employers must cooperate with other employers if premises are shared.
Employers may share facilities and premises with other employers or organisations. In this situation, all those with appointed responsibilities for fire risk management (including employers themselves) must cooperate/coordinate with one other to ensure that in the event of fire, the entirety of the premises are safe.
Failure to co-operate and coordinate may lead to an offence being committed under Article 22.
Envesca offer two levels of fire courses, both of which offer advice and guidance on The Regulatory (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
If you would like to discuss the various options with our friendly team just give us a call on 01452 898180