We run a block of flats. We have had contradictory information and advice on what safety/hazard signs we should be displaying inside the building and in the parking area. The local fire authority prefers the minimum, in order that those on display make an impact. But a risk assessment company suggests we should have yet more signs. Should we believe them (in preference to the fire authority)?
Our preference would be to issue all residents with a copy of the emergency plan and what to do in the case of a fire rather than plastering that information all over the corridors.
The FPRA replies:
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 focusses on fire prevention in all non-domestic premises, including communal parts of blocks of flats but NOT the flats themselves. Fire certificates have now been abolished and have no legal status.
Responsibility for complying with the Fire Safety Order will rest with the ‘responsible person’. In a block like yours this will probably be the Company Directors, or any other person who may have control of the communal parts of the premises. If there is more than one responsible person in your premises, all must take all reasonable steps to work with each other.
The responsible person will have to carry out a fire risk assessment, which must focus on the safety in case of fire of all ‘relevant persons’. In your case that will be residents and ALL visitors to your building. It should pay particular attention to those at special risk, such as the disabled and those with special needs, and must include consideration of any dangerous substance likely to be on the premises. Your fire risk assessment will help you identify risks that can be removed or reduced and to decide the nature and extent of the general fire precautions you need to take to protect people against the fire risks that remain.
ONLY if you employ five or more people must you record any significant findings of the assessment. I would however, strongly recommend you keep records of any assessments that are made.
You may want to contact your Local Council Officers to discuss your specific requirements regarding signage but my view is this would be your decision to make based on the advice from the various professionals which as you described in often conflicting.
I have included the short version of the Government guide to the new law and the full 127-page guide is available from the Department of Communities and Local Government.
In our case we consulted our Local Authority Fire Safety Advisor who provided us with free advice and made a number of recommendations which we considered along with the advice from Building Control Officers and various contractors. The Directors balanced all of this advice and reached our own view as to how best to deal with any risk, but I tend to agree with you to give greater weight to the Fire Service advice.