Large businesses usually have an assigned fire and safety person, or even a department, who ensures that the business properties are up to date on fire codes and regulations. So, let’s focus on fire safety in small to medium-sized businesses. These could be a small shop, café, or perhaps an office with a few employees.

Maintaining a fire-safe workplace is everyone’s responsibility, though some have more responsibility than others. Even an employee holds some responsibility, though they may not be able to be held accountable. Knowing information such as fire escape routes, where fire alarms are, and to keep the escape routes clutter-free, will be very helpful in case of a fire.

Anyone who has control of premises or anyone who has a degree of control over certain areas or systems may be a ‘responsible person’. It could be, for example, the employer for those parts of premises staff may go to; the managing agent or owner for shared parts of premises or shared fire safety equipment such as fire-warning systems or sprinklers; the occupier, such as self-employed people or voluntary organisations if they have any control; or any other person who has some control over a part of the premises. In many instances it will be obvious who the responsible person is but there may be times when a number of people have some responsibility. It’s best to find out.

The responsible person must make sure to carry out a fire-risk assessment. They may have another person assigned to do this assessment, but they still maintain responsibility. They must ensure that everyone can escape safely if there is a fire. This differs from previous legislation in that the responsible person must consider everyone who might be on your premises, whether they are employees, visitors or members of the public.

Fire authorities no longer issue fire certificates and those previously in force will have no legal status but may be a good starting point for carrying out a fire risk assessment. The general fire precautions that need to be taken are fire detection and warning system as well as fire extinguishers. Fire escape routes must be signed and might need to have an emergency lighting system along it.

Keeping records of the assessments and notes on actions taken in the prevention of fires should be kept. RPIIT – Record, plan, instruct, inform, and train. If the responsible person ensures that their fire-risk assessment is done regularly and they use the rule of RPIIT, their small to medium-sized business should be as fire-safe as it can be.