Jane Embury looks at aspects of fire safety
A building’s ability to withstand fire depends on its design, the materials used and the quality of construction.
If a fire does happen, those three elements should prevent the spread of flames and smoke and allow for a safe evacuation.
Good building design involves a multi-disciplinary approach from architects, designers, building contractors, developers and building owners.
New UK legislation passed in the last month gives statutory responsibility to named individuals for all aspects of building safety in complex buildings.
The legislation aims to gather all the stands of building safety into the hands of people responsible for safety from design through to ten years after delivery of that building.
But in looking at the Building Safety Bill it’s easy to overlook existing legislation. They continue to place fire safety obligations on everyone involved in the construction cycle.
Fire safety in all non-domestic premises in England and Wales is regulated by the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRFSO). Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own legislation.
The order requires any person with any control over premises to take reasonable steps to assess fire risk.
They must also put in place appropriate measures including measures to ensure people can safely escape.
The RRFSO imposes various duties in relation to fire safety on each “responsible person.”
Those duties include undertaking fire risk assessments, and putting in place appropriate fire precautions. In a two part article, we recently called into question aspects of fire safety planning.
Duties also include the provision of protective equipment and ensuring proper access to emergency exits.
It’s worth remembering that contractors fall within the definition of a responsible person. The reason being is that they have control over the building during work.
Contractors should therefore, prior to starting work, carry out a risk assessment and nominate a competent person to implement fire safety.
Issues might include, for example, the risks posed by storing potentially flammable materials near fire exits.
Importantly, where there is more than one responsible person, each must co-operate and co-ordinate with the others over fire safety risks.
Fire safety legislation is enforced by fire safety enforcement officers from the local fire and rescue service. However, the Health and Safety Executive is the enforcing authority, and enforcement officers can enter any workplace without notice.
Non-compliance can lead to the prosecution of corporate bodies and individuals. Fines and even imprisonment may be imposed.
Other consequences include reputational damage. Most importantly though, there is the potential human cost of a fire.
It adds up to a safety approach that should all be about using the very best systems and materials.
The main reason for compromise is, of course, cost because fire is a rare event, and corners are therefore cut.
But fire does happen, and the best way to prevent loss of life or substantial damage is to contain fire at or near its source.
Advanced glazing systems help to do just that, and our systems are complete and guaranteed. That means peace of mind for building owners, developers and designers.
In that cost-benefit analysis, peace of mind is priceless.