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Who is Responsible for Fire Safety?

Aug 21, 2008
If you are operating a small business, one of your biggest safety concerns is probably a fire. After all, one fire can completely devastate your business and can leave everything youve worked so hard for all your life in shambles. However, there is often some confusion over who should be in charge of fire safety at most businesses. Recently passed legislation, however, is taking the guess work out of the question.

The New Laws for Businesses

Depending on where you are located, you may already have been affected by changes in the legislation in your area. In 2006, for example, any property considered non domestic had to make changes in how they decided who was responsible for fire safety in England and in Wales. The general idea was that anyone who some level of control over the property would hold that responsibility.

In 2008, a similar law will go into effect in Northern Ireland. According to the law, a responsible person is now being officially designated by the law. As with the 2006 law in England, determining the identity of that person is primarily going to involve determining who has control over the property.

While the designated person may differ for different small businesses, the person will usually be the owner or manager of the business.

Specific Responsibilities of the Designated Person

The laws for Northern Ireland and for England vary slightly in terms of specific responsibilities but there are some general guidelines that must be followed according to the new laws. One of the most important is that the responsible person must make sure everyone, including employees and customers, can evacuate the building in case there is a fire. You must also develop a plan for the event of an emergency.

In addition, you are also responsible for completing a fire risk assessment of your premises so that you can identify the threats of a fire, including electrical problems, combustible materials, and other potential risks that could lead to a fire. You will also need to keep a record of what youve determined in the assessment and to review those findings periodically so they can be updated as necessary.

You will also need to take actions to reduce any of the risks youve identified. For example, you may need to install fire alarms or escape chutes in order to meet the demands of the new law.

Benefits of the New Fire Safety Laws. Although everyone who comes into your business is going to share some common sense responsible for preventing fires such as not dropping a lit cigarette into a wastebasket, this law erases the confusion over who carries most of the responsibility for taking the necessary actions to protect the small business from this wholly preventable disaster. If you are the responsible person, the law clearly outlines the steps you need to take in order to properly safeguard your small business and to protect both your customers and your workers from harm. Plus, taking these actions now may save you from great financial loss later.
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