The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 puts responsibility for fire safety in non-domestic properties in the hands of a designated ‘responsible person’.
This individual, also called 'the duty holder', must carry out a written fire risk assessment and put in place appropriate fire safety measures, based on the nature, design and occupancy of the premises.
The order is enforced by periodic inspections or audits by the enforcing authority – usually the local fire authority.
Who is your responsible person?
In relation to the Fire Safety Order, the responsible person can, in general, be the employer or the owner or manager (controller) of the building. At surgeries, the GP partners may well delegate this role to the practice manager.
The practice manager (or GP partner or other designated team member) ultimately responsible will have, or should be given, authority over the general fire precautions and for implementing the findings of fire risk assessments.
If there is a fire at the surgery, the depending on how serious it is, the fire service will want to talk to the responsible person.
General fire precautions
These include all fire detection and alarms (where necessary), emergency lighting, signs, fire extinguishers, working fire doors/closers, management and emergency plans, a degree of initial training and a maintenance/inspection programme
Safe premises and equipment
The person responsible for fire safety needs to understand their building in respect of the fire safety measures designed into it and be able to identify where they may fall short. They must know and fully understand the implications of what the fire risk assessment involves.
The management part of the assessment includes whether there is:
- A fire policy
- An emergency plan
- Appropriate training
- An equipment inspection, testing and maintenance programme
- Proof in writing/certificates recording the practice has all these.
Passive and active protection
Does the responsible person know how to identify failings in passive and active fire systems? Passive systems include fire protection built in to the structure of the building such as fire doors while active systems include emergency lighting, alarms and extinguishers).
Are there arrangements in place for competent/qualified person(s to) service, maintain and repair these systems?
Providing suitable fire safety training for the practice team and how this relates to the emergency plan and fire strategy is very important. The risk of a disaster is higher if team members don’t know what to do if there is a fire.
This might all sound a bit of a nightmare, but guidance is available from the goverment: visit the fire safety in the workplace section on the gov.uk website.
If your building is complex or has more than one floor and/or the building is put to other uses outside normal opening hours, the responsible person should consider seeking professional fire safety advice.
Dealing with minor fire
Around 80% of all fires on business property go unreported as, on almost all occasions, they are put out with a fire extinguisher by an employee. Unless there is a sudden and immediate conflagration that might involve a gas explosion or ignition of a large quantity of flammable products, the initial stages of a small fire are well within the design limits of the average fire extinguisher for business premises.
The operator must know what they are doing and have received ‘suitable training’ in the use of portable fire fighting equipment. There is no formal guidance as to whether theoretical or practical training is necessary or required – the law requires only that it is must be provided.
Practical extinguisher training is best. ‘Real flame’ (albeit from a gas-operated simulator), is a learning experience as the extinguisher operator gains an understanding of the effects of heat and flame.
Theory or demonstration with a film or pictures is the absolute minimum and just about adequate in low-risk premises.
|Steps to take if there is a fire|
If there is a fire
- Phil Watkins is an ex-fire service officer and a fire safety consultant with Hurtwood Fire Risk Management Ltd