This week is Business Safety Week* (5th - 11th September) and an opportunity for fire industry professionals to talk to their customers about complying with fire safety law and reducing their risk of fire.
It's probably not a question that many businesses really want to consider but it is absolutely essential to do so. Would their insurance company pay out in the event of a fire?
It is unfortunate, but not uncommon, for businesses to be completely obliterated by a single fire. According to statistics provided by insurance companies, of those businesses that are hit, around 80% cease trading within as little as 18 months. With that in mind, it makes sense for a business to do everything it can to prevent disaster striking.
Who is responsible for fire safety?
Employers, building owners, landlords, occupiers, or anyone else with control of a premises - such as a facilities or building manager or a managing agent is responsible for fire safety in a business or other non-domestic premises. So as a fire industry professional, what steps should you encourage them to take in order to protect not just the lives of their employees, but their building, its contents, and their insurance cover too?
The Fire Industry Association (FIA) recommends a robust fire risk assessment, carried out by a competent individual, to ensure that all parts of the building have been accounted for and the risks have been considered and planned for. The risk assessment will highlight not only what fire protection equipment is needed but also where.
Are there fire extinguishers available for use?
Are they suitable for the risks?
Are they correctly maintained?
Are the extinguishers due for a discharge test?
Have the persons who are expected to use the extinguishers, received training in the correct type of extinguisher to use and how to use them?
Fire Alarm System
Does the premises need a fire alarm system?
If so, what category is required?
Has the system been designed by a person qualified to design systems?
If already installed, has the system been installed correctly?
Is the documentation in the form of certificates for the Design, Installation, Commissioning and Handover of the system and were the certificates issued by reputable companies?
Is the system regularly maintained and is there evidence available to support this, such as the fire alarm logbook?
If asked, we always recommend that quality fire safety equipment is installed by a BAFE qualified engineer, and that Responsible Persons get help and advice. This is especially important when you consider that ultimate responsibility for the competency and engineering skills of the installer or service provider is on the owner of the fire system - and there is nothing to prevent unqualified and inexperienced organisations from operating in the fire industry.
It might appear to be a straightforward process to simply go to an insurance broker and get your business insured. Certainly, having adequate fire protection equipment installed and maintained by a competent fire industry professional will reduce the risk of fire causing damage to the business. However, the fire protection equipment chosen may have an effect on the insurance cover. Insurance companies vary greatly with their criteria, and some may refuse to insure a company, or it may even be difficult to insure a business that does not have adequate fire protection under certain circumstances.
For insurance purposes, how the building is constructed and divided up and the measures in place to stop or slow the spread of fire will also be a key factor. You may be unsure about the construction of the building and what measures are in place for fire protection, such as in-built dry risers for example. In this case this information will need to be obtained, probably from the construction company or building owner. If the building does have in-built dry risers, it's also worth noting that according to the Fire Service, up to 60% of these have never been tested but since these are also the responsibility of the Responsible Person, they can certainly invalidate insurance if they are not being maintained.
*Business Safety Week is an annual event organised by the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) and supported by Fire and Rescue Services. Its aim is to make small and medium-sized businesses aware of their legal and moral fire safety responsibilities in the workplace.
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The information contained within this blog is provided solely for general informational and educational purposes and is not intended as a substitute for professional advice. Before taking any actions based upon this information, we advise the reader to consult any and all relevant statutory or regulatory guidance and where necessary to consult a qualified fire or industry regulation professional. The use or reliance on any information contained herein is solely at the reader's risk.