This Business Safety Week we’re keen to introduce you to our Protection Team, which works to help Bucks and MK businesses reduce workplace fire risk and comply with fire safety law.
Fire Safety Law
Fire safety law is concerned with the compliance of most premises (excluding individual private flats and houses) to the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (the Order).
The aim of this piece of legislation is to ensure that all reasonable steps have been taken in the workplace to ensure that everyone can escape safely if there is a fire.
For those in blocks of flats and high-rise residential buildings the Order also applies to the common areas such as foyers and more recently, following on from the Grenfell Tower fire, to external wall coverings including balconies.
Fire Safety in BFRS
Within BFRS we refer to fire safety as protection.
Our Protection Team is made up of inspecting officers who work in three offices that deal with fire safety throughout Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes.
The aim of the Protection Team is to ensure that all everyone who works, lives or visits any premises included in the Order is able to safely escape in the rare and unfortunate circumstances of a fire occurring. The team manage this in several different ways.
BFRS Protection Team
- Provide feedback to consultations involving the development of buildings, whether initially being built or a change in use. An example would be the proposed building of a new high-rise residential building where the Protection Team would give its opinion on how the building could be built to ensure that everyone can escape safety or remain safe in their flats if a fire broke out.
- Respond to fire safety complaints, either from our own staff on fire appliances who are made aware of areas of concern, or from members of the public with similar concerns. A recent example of this was a flat above a restaurant where there was no safe way for the person in the flat to escape without going past a fire that occurred in the restaurant. In this case the Protection Team prohibited the use of the flat, straight away, for the safety of the resident.
- Undertake visits to premises that have recently had a fire to see whether there is advice which can be offered to reduce the impact or likelihood of a re-occurrence. In some cases fire development progressed because there was insufficient detection. This in turn might compromise the safety of those working in the building, so advice around fire detection and suppression systems and emergency escape routes will be offered.
- Undertake their own pre-arranged audit visits that reflect BFRS understanding of the risk of a building and who occupies it. For example, if a building is occupied by older or less able people we would see this as a higher risk because those people would not be able to escape as quickly.
- Work closely with their colleagues in Response and Prevention (Community Safety) to ensure that information on the safety of our communities is passed on to all relevant teams. This happens when Prevention staff spot fire safety issues in common areas, when giving safety advice to people in their own flats.
Once again, many businesses will have closed their doors to the public, either by choice or necessity, in the continued fight against Coronavirus (COVID-19).
With premises closed, or unable to operate in the usual way, ensuring their safety is really important to us. A fire in an unattended commercial property could have devastating repercussions for the business, the local community and any residents in the same building or nearby.
Group Commander Phill Mould, who leads our business safety teams, said:
“At the moment many businesses are not operating in their usual way. It is possible that their premises aren’t being attended by staff as regularly as they would normally.
“In the most extreme cases some commercial or business premises could have been unattended since March when the first national restrictions were implemented.”
It is important to ensure safety and maintain preventative measures for these premises while the country responds to COVID-19. It could be as simple as a quick visit to check that commercial smoke detection and alarm systems are still working.
Group Commmander Mould added:
“We are asking all business owners and the public to join forces, and help keep the commercial premises in Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes safe, so these important elements of our community are in a good position to open once restrictions allow.”