Fire Safety

England and Wales

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (FSO) - came force on 1st October 2006 in England and Wales. The FSO amends, repeals and revokes many pieces of legislation including repealing the Fire Precautions Act 1971, and the Fire Precautions (Workplace) Regulations 1997 as amended by the Fire Precautions (Workplace) (Amendment) Regulations 1999. Scotland and Northern Ireland have separate fire safety legislation.

The FSO covers all premises except private dwellings. Under the FSO fire certificates are abolished. Instead, responsibility for fire safety and compliance with the provisions of the FSO rest with the 'responsible person'. The 'responsible person' is defined as the person or persons who have control of any part of the premises. In cases where the partners own the premises, the partners are the responsible person. In cases where the owner of the premises is not the partners, then the partners and the owner are collectively the responsible person. For practices run by a PCO, the PCO is the responsible person. The FSO states that if there is more than one responsible person in any type of premises (e.g. two practices sharing the same building), all must take all reasonable steps to work with each other.

The responsible person must carry out a fire risk assessment which must focus on the safety in case of fire of all 'relevant persons' ('relevant person' includes all staff and anyone else who is lawfully on the premises [e.g. patients, contractors, locums, District Nurses, Counsellors, etc.] and anyone around it who could be affected by a fire). The risk assessment should pay particular attention to those at special risk, such as the disabled and those with special needs, and must include consideration of any dangerous substances likely to be on the premises.

Practice action

Practices must identify their 'responsible person' and that person must undertake a fire risk assessment. The enforcing authority (usually the Fire Authority) will visit and inspect premises to ensure compliance with the FSO.

Fire Extinguishers

British Standard BS5306-3:2009 (introduced in 2009) requires that new fire extinguishers must be commissioned by a 'Competent Person' at the place they are to be installed. This is intended to stop businesses from buying and installing cheap extinguishers which may not be fit for purpose. Practices should ensure that they buy from suppliers who follow the new BS code.

Fire drill / evacuation

Employers should organise periodic fire drills so that staff are familiar with the process for evacuating the building and the location of their Assembly Point(s). Frequency of fire drills depends on a number of factors. In cases where their is low staff turnover and no changes have been made to the building, an annual drill is adequate. In cases where there are new staff or there have been building alterations/new building, drills should be more frequent.

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