Fire safety is a vital part of employers’ responsibilities for ensuring their workforce’s health and safety. This guide provides a checklist of fire safety in the workplace measures to follow.
A fire can be devastating for any organisation, and employers must take steps to prevent them.
The main fire safety legislation affecting businesses in England and Wales is the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, commonly known as the ‘Fire Safety Order’. It applies to almost all non-domestic premises, buildings, structures and open spaces.
In Scotland, the main rules are covered by the Fire Safety (Scotland) Regulations 2006. In Northern Ireland, it’s the Fire and Rescue Services (Northern Ireland) Order 2006 and the Fire Safety Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2010.
All the regulations place a duty on employers to assess, control and prevent the risk of fires in the workplace.
Failure to comply can be hugely damaging. Of the 14,308 fires attended by fire and rescue services at UK workplaces in 2019/20, 17 people were killed, and 877 people were injured.
Buildings can also be badly damaged, resulting in expensive repairs. Employers face fines of up to £5,000 for minor breaches of the rules or unlimited fines and up to two years in prison for major non-compliance.
Our fire safety training course helps you understand your responsibilities under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and ensures everyone in your workplace knows the risk of workplace fires.
How to ensure fire safety in the workplace
Fire risk assessments
Organisations are legally required to carry out a fire risk assessment. A competent ‘responsible person’ should be appointed to oversee fire safety arrangements and ensure risk assessments occur and controls are implemented.
The assessment must first identify fire hazards and who is at risk and then develop measures for removing or reducing the risks. Based on the assessment, you can also prepare an emergency plan, appoint Fire Marshals or Wardens and provide fire safety training.
Businesses with five or more employees must keep a written record of the fire risk assessment and make it available for inspections by fire and emergency services.
Read our detailed guide to fire risk assessments.
Workplaces should have at least one fire warden or fire marshal. They are employees who may be given responsibilities for maintaining fire safety precautions and helping with evacuations if a fire or an emergency occurs. They should be trained in fire safety awareness and their responsibilities typically include evacuations.
The number of fire marshals required in a workplace depends on the organisation’s fire risk level, the fire risk assessment and the requirements of the emergency plan.
Find out more about our Fire Marshal Training course.
Fire safety training
Your employees should be trained in fire safety. They should understand common causes of fires, how to raise the alarm, who the fire marshals are and the emergency arrangements if a fire occurs. A fire safety course will give them the knowledge they need and can also form part of a blended learning approach.
New employees must be trained when they start work, and all employees must be told about any new fire risks.
Fire-fighting equipment and extinguishers will be in place to aid an escape in the event of an emergency. Your risk assessment will help you decide on the type and number of fire extinguishers needed and with reference to published guidance.
The main types of fire extinguisher are:
- Water – for wood, paper, textile and solid material fires (do not use on liquid, electrical or metal fires).
- Foam – for liquid fires (do not use on electrical or metal fires).
- Powder – for liquid and electrical fires (do not use on metal fires).
- Carbon dioxide – for liquid and electrical fires (do not use on metal fires).
Everyone in charge of fire safety in the workplace should be trained in the different fire extinguisher types and how to operate them.
Read our detailed guide to the different types of fire extinguisher and how to use them.
Fire emergency plans
You should have a plan in place that tells employees what they must do if they discover a fire. It should outline what warning systems are in place, evacuation procedures and routes, and the fire assembly point.
Fire detection systems
UK fire alarm regulations require that all workplace premises have an appropriate fire detection system. This may include fire alarms, smoke alarms and sprinkler systems.
Fire detection systems may be triggered automatically or manually. If it’s the latter, employees should be trained in how to use them.
You should regularly check that fire, and smoke alarms are working.
Fire escape routes
Buildings must have sufficient and well-lit fire escape routes so people can leave safely if a fire occurs and offer protection where a risk assessment shows they are required. If emergency lighting is used, it should be tested regularly to ensure it is working.
Routes should be the shortest distance possible, and everyone should be able to use them or have arrangements in place to ensure that safe access can be achieved. In general, there should be alternative escape routes in a workplace.
You should always ensure escape routes are clear, the floor is in good condition, and fire exits can be opened easily.
Fire doors are required in many types of premises to help prevent the spread of fire and smoke or protect a means of escape. They are also a legal requirement for domestic flats which have common areas shared with other tenants.
Fire doors stop fires spreading through a building when they’re closed and provide protection to an escape route when they’re open. When someone uses a fire door during a fire, they are designed to automatically close behind them to prevent the flames and smoke from spreading.
You should make regular checks to ensure that doors close correctly.
Fire safety signs
Your fire safety checklist should include appropriate signage. These should indicate fire exit routes and assembly points, the location of fire-fighting equipment and explain what people should do in the event of a fire.
Signs should use approved pictograms, so they are easy to understand and take into account people with poor vision and those for whom English isn’t their first language.
Fire drills to practice your fire emergency evacuation procedures should be carried out at least once a year. If an evacuation route changes, a fire drill should be carried out as soon as possible rather than waiting until the next drill is due.
Waste, rubbish and flammable materials
Workplaces should be kept clean and tidy. A build-up of flammable materials, such as cardboard, can cause a fire hazard. It can also restrict access to emergency escape routes.
Hazardous substances should be managed as outlined by the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations.
Electrical equipment can cause fires, so organisations should ensure proper measures are taken to prevent them. Under the Electricity at Work Regulations (1989), employers must make sure the electrical system is safe and is tested by a competent person.
Electrical fire hazards include faulty, overloaded or poorly maintained electrical distribution boards and systems, overloading plug sockets, and frayed, loose or damaged electrical cables.
Read our guide to electrical hazards in the workplace.
Our Fire Safety Training helps ensure your organisation complies with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order and supports organisational awareness on fire safety, fire hazards and fire prevention.