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Does my business need a Fire Risk Assessment?

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 applies to almost all types of businesses and premises. However, there are some exemptions and exceptions where it doesn't apply regarding fire risk assessments. There are so many answers to the question "Does my business need a Fire Risk Assessment?" this it's probably easier to answer in the negative - which business DON'T need a Fire Risk Assessment?

  1. Your business is just you and you operate from your home (your business premises is also your place of residence).  There used to be an exemption for companies employing less than 5 people, but this has now been removed.
  2. You rent out domestic property but it's as a "single private dwelling" (i.e. not a flat or a building with shared areas) and it's let as their "principal residence" - they live there permanently.
  3. Fields, woods or other land which isn't inside a building and is situated away from the main buildings.
  4. Ships, but only if there are no passengers and it's not in dry dock.
  5. Vehicles used purely as a means of transport
  6. Offshore installations and mines

These examples have been very simplified, so if you're not certain please checkout - The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 online and its amendments in Section 156 Building Safety Act 2022.

Some specific examples we get asked all the time - Does my business need a Fire Risk Assessment for...

  • ...renting out a single spare room for one night, YES
  • ...AirBNB type arrangements for rooms or entire buildings, YES
  • ...glamping, camping or static caravan sites where you own and/or rent out the tent/caravan/building where people will stay, YES
  • ...a field where people holiday in their own caravans, NO

So 99.99% of UK businesses almost certainly need an up to date Fire Risk Assessment.  But are they really of any use?  Is all this health & safety stuff a bit over-the-top?  Are you planning for an event that's almost certain to never happen?  Surely so long as the fire alarm and fire extinguishers are serviced annually everything is ok?  

Well... no.  The issue with fires is that things can go from seemingly "normal" to "catastrophic" in seconds.  Often because a fire can spread around a building for minutes before anyone notices.  By the time people in the building are aware, it can often be too late.  A Fire Risk Assessment is there to look at the way the premises are built and used to minimise the risk of a fire starting and then to facilitate a prompt and safe evacuation.   You can't depend on people behaving 'normally', panic can make people do strange things.  Or putting out the fire with an extinguisher, it may already have spread too far.  Neither should you rely on prompt detection, the fire can start where there are no detectors. Finally the Fire Service are there to help, but you might be on your own for 20 - 30mins.

We often see things that the people who work in the building have not realised is actually a major fire risk, such as these real world examples:

Allowing a fire to start unnoticed

  • Where someone has partitioned off part of a room but not put a smoke/heat detector in that new area.
  • Detectors mounted half way up a wall rather than on the ceiling.
  • Service engineers testing half the smoke/heat detectors then coming back to test the other half in 6 months.  Which is ok, but not when there is no record of exactly which ones were tested.
  • Removing the fuse from the fire alarm because " keeps going off".

Allowing a fire to spread throughout the building

  • Using hooks or wedges to hold open fire doors.
  • Plumbers or electricians knocking holes in walls to run pipes or wire.  But then not filling in the gaps with fire retardant foam.
  • Suspended ceilings with no protection to stop fires spreading above each room.

Escape routes blocked

  • Sending elderly or wheelchair users up to the 3rd flood in a lift when the lift may be unavailable in a fire.
  • Items stored in corridors and staircases.
  • Fire exit doors which have an electric roller shutter on the outside, which isn't opened each day.
  • Locating vehicle charging points immediately outside the only exit door for building.

As a last point, here's another way to think about it.  You wouldn't send an employee out in a vehicle with dodgy brakes, serve a customer food you knew was 'off', let your kids sleep in the woods or expect your granny to descend 4 sets of stairs in under 2 mins.   This is because you can quantify all those in advance.  A Fire Risk Assessment simply helps you do that.

If you now know that you need a Fire Risk Assessment, but want to get an idea on costs, maybe checkout our page on How much does a Fire Risk Assessment cost?

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