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An Inspector Calls – How to prepare for a fire safety inspection

Posted in: Facilities Management Property Services

Local Fire and Rescue Services conduct regular fire safety inspections on business premises to ensure that they comply with The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. This will involve a visit from a representative of the Fire and Rescue Service who will carry out an assessment of the building.

If you’ve never had one before, here’s what you can expect from a fire safety inspection, should an inspector come calling.

What‘s the role of a Fire Safety Inspector?

Job descriptions and titles tend to differ depending on which Fire & Rescue Service they belong to but you’ll often hear them described as fire safety inspectors or fire safety enforcement officers.

They are usually experienced fire fighters with an additional understanding of building construction and their role is to enforce fire safety law. A fire safety inspector has the right to enter any workplace at any reasonable hour, without giving notice. Although notice may be given where the inspector thinks it is appropriate.

What will a fire safety inspector do?

A fire safety inspector will check out the workplace, the activities undertaken there and your management of fire safety. They’ll also audit your fire risk assessment to ensure that you’re complying with fire safety law.

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 has consolidated some 118 pieces of old legislation. One of its main objectives is to place greater emphasis on fire prevention in all non-domestic buildings. There is specific legislation that applies to England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. To ensure that your premises comply, it’s likely that they will assess the structure and construction of the building, review escape routes, examine the means of raising the alarm in the event of fire and talk to your employees about their roles and the actions they will need to take in the event of a fire.

If a breach of fire safety legislation is found, a fire safety inspector can take action in several ways. They might deal with minor matters informally, offering help and advice. For more serious non-compliance, they can issue formal notices or take measures to enforce the law there and then.

Notices for serious breaches can restrict or prohibit use of the workplace until such time as the improvements or changes required have been carried out, or, in the worst cases, initiate prosecution if you have failed to comply with fire safety legislation.

If you want more information, the Fire Safety Advice Centre has put together this useful guide of what to expect if a fire safety inspector calls.

What should you do to prepare for a fire safety inspection?

Given that it could happen at any time, it’s important to make sure that you can access the relevant paperwork and have the answers to the questions they’re likely to ask.

Some important things to remember are:

  • Someone in your company must be the ‘Responsible Person’. For most companies, this will be the employer or any other person who may have control of fire safety.
  • Ensure the Responsible Person is competent and has carried out a Fire Risk Assessment (FRA) of your business premises.
  • Review the FRA regularly – once a year is often sufficient.

What should a fire risk assessment include?

As the name suggests, a fire risk assessment is an assessment of the risks from fire and involves a process that takes reasonable steps to remove or reduce any risks.

There are 5 useful steps that you can follow when putting together an FRA:

  1. Identify the fire hazards
  2. Identify people at risk
  3. Evaluate, remove or reduce the risks
  4. Record your findings and prepare an emergency plan with training
  5. Review and update the fire risk assessment regularly

Gov.uk has a handy downloadable FRA checklist.

There is no legally prescribed format for the FRA. However, the South Wales Fire Service’s FRA worked example provides a useful format as a guide.

At TPG, we have a number of format templates suitable for different types of premises.

How should you deal with a fire safety inspection?

It’s important to remember that a fire safety inspector is there to help. While any problems that they might find are likely to cost money to put right, it’s all in the best interests of you and your staff.

With that in mind, here are our top TPG tips for when an inspector calls:

Be Friendly

Make them a cup of tea and don’t be defensive or obstructive.

Be Organised

Have your statutory documents in one place, including the fire risk assessment, general workplace risk assessments and statutory test certificates for fire alarms, emergency lighting and sprinkler systems.

Be Proactive

Ask the fire safety inspector for advice or help. While they are there to enforce the law, part of their role is also to offer guidance for businesses to comply with fire safety.

Be Calm

If a breach of fire safety law is found, ask the fire officer to help you comply with any minor issues. They can also provide you with any advice in writing after the inspection. When in doubt, you can always give us a call. Your initial phone call to TPG is always free.

Be Quick

Appoint a competent contractor to help you act on the findings of your FRA and act on any breaches reported to you by the fire safety inspector.

The TPG FM team can undertake the required works that are identified on an FRA. Plus, clients have the benefit of our qualified building surveyors and fire risk assessors to help you decide the best action to comply before our building and facilities team undertake the work to ensure compliance.

If you decide to use your own preferred builder, we can also offer an independent audit of their work to ensure that it complies before a fire safety inspector returns to check the work.

When an inspector calls for a fire safety inspection, we hope that this has helped you to be a little more prepared. And if you have any questions about fire risk assessments or other areas of health & safety compliance, give the TPG team a call.

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