Article by Sam Pearson
With the tragedy at Grenfell Tower still fresh in our memories, fire safety understandably has become something of a pressing issue. Our commercial property specialist Sam Pearson looks at the importance of getting it right when it comes to fire safety in commercial premises.
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (“The Order”) covers fire safety in England and Wales with the aim of protecting buildings and people from the dangers of fire by setting out steps which should be taken to reduce the risk. Responsibility for complying with The Order rests with the “responsible person[s]” which includes the employer in the workplace, owners and/or persons in control of premises.
Although The Order is aimed at commercial premises (including external areas and vacant premises) it is important to mention that it also applies to communal parts of residential properties.
The responsible person[s] must determine what general fire precautions are necessary and carry out a risk assessment which must be documented, recorded and kept under review. Other responsibilities include (but are not limited to) taking measures for the provision of firefighting and fire detection equipment; ensuring fire safety equipment and exit routes are properly maintained; the appointment of a competent person to implement the fire safety measures including evacuation procedures and safety drills; and providing training and information for employees and other persons who may be affected.
A breach of your obligations under The Order creates criminal offences and a person found guilty of an offence is liable to a fine and in the most serious cases imprisonment. The responsible person[s] could also face civil liability for breach of a statutory duty.
There have been numerous cases where businesses and Landlords have been convicted for failing to comply with their obligations under The Order:
- Most recently in June 2017, a company responsible for the running of a care home in Doncaster was fined £3,500 and ordered to pay £13,325 prosecution costs for failing to have a suitable fire risk assessment in place;
- Locally, a Welsh construction company was fined £100,000 after admitting to fire safety breaches at a construction site and a Cardiff landlord was fined nearly £2,000 for failing to install smoke alarms;
- A number of major retailers have also been caught out including New Look who following a fire that gutted their Oxford Street store were fined £400,000 after pleading guilty to failing to provide sufficient staff training and admitting to storage blocking escape routes.
Clearly then the costs of getting it wrong can be high!
Whether you have any doubts about the adequacy of fire safety measures in existing premises, you are in process of acquiring new premises or in the unfortunate event you suffer a fire or face enforcement action, our experts here at CJCH Solicitors will be able to provide you with the expert legal advice and practical commercial considerations to assist you and your business.