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Commercial Building Fire Safety Requirements

Adam Johnson Adam Johnson
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When it comes to business, health and safety is a crucial issue. Owners and occupiers of commercial/non-domestic buildings have a legal obligation to provide a safe environment for employees and customers alike. 

The importance of fire safety cannot be understated. With currently nearly 20,000 commercial fires in the UK each year, every precaution must be taken to reduce this significant risk. Here is how you, as an employer, can promote fire safety in your building. 

UK Fire Safety Regulations

All UK businesses operate under ‘The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005’, which provides a framework for regulating fire safety in all non-domestic and commercial premises, including workplaces. It is vital to familiarise yourself with this legislation to understand current fire safety laws comprehensively. In most cases, the local fire and rescue authorities are responsible for enforcing this fire safety legislation. Due to the devastating and, unfortunately, preventable case of the Grenfell Tower Fire, The Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 has been introduced as a crucial step towards implementing the recommendations outlined by investigations, including clarifying the role of responsible persons for multi-occupied residential buildings. 

Fire Risk Assessments

According to UK law, an appointed official is responsible for carrying out regular fire risk assessments in the building for which they are responsible. Along with your Fire Safety Log Book, selecting a fire authority inspecting officer is your first port of call. Based on the findings from regular fire risk assessments, employers can then implement changes and ensure adequate and appropriate fire safety measures are in place.

A fire risk assessment consists of the following:

  • Identifying fire hazards
  • Identifying people at risk
  • Assessing, eliminating and reducing risks
  • Recording any findings
  • Reviewing and updating as required

You can find template fire risk assessment forms online. 

Fire Extinguishers 

As stated in the UK fire safety legislation, “appropriate fire-fighting equipment” must be provided on all commercial properties - this includes a minimum of fire extinguishers per storey and, if necessary, sprinklers and hose reels.

If your business involves electrical equipment, you will require a CO2 and foam/water extinguisher. Other types of fire extinguishers include the following:

  • Water - suitable for combustible materials such as wood and paper.
  • Foam - suitable for combustible materials and flammable liquids like petrol and paint.
  • CO2 - suitable for flammable liquids and electrical equipment.
  • Wet chemical - Suitable for combustible materials and cooking oils/fats.
  • Dry powder - Suitable for everything except cooking oils/fats.

You can find comprehensive guides to different fire classifications and fire extinguisher types online. Per the legislation, your fire extinguishers will require annual fire extinguisher services to check for functionality and any visual signs of damage or corrosion. 

Emergency Lighting 

Emergency lighting installation is required to provide illumination throughout your building, including corridors, stairways and exit doors - this is a statutory requirement. The purpose of emergency lighting is so that sufficient light from high-powered LED bulbs can guide people to safety in the event of a blackout. Safe, prompt and efficient evacuation cannot be achieved when obstructions and other hazards are hidden by darkness, so clear, illuminated designated egress routes are essential. 

Fire Alarms

Fire alarms fall under the umbrella of an “appropriate fire detection system”, as outlined by UK fire alarm regulations. There are several different types of fire alarm:

  • Conventional - a basic system that can detect a fire and give a general guide to its location whilst alerting people in the building. Cost-effective and suitable for smaller facilities.
  • Addressable - this system can pinpoint the precise location of the fire by determining which sensor was activated. Addressable systems are widely used in large buildings.
  • Wireless - a flexible system that can be easily installed and relocated anytime as required. Wireless or ‘radio’ alarm systems use radio frequencies to control the building’s detectors.
  • Monitored - a state-of-the-art system that monitors your building even when unoccupied, alerting the emergency services via both landline and 4G. 
  • Gas suppression - a system for unoccupied buildings to extinguish electrical fires by releasing a concentration of gas within a room, removing the oxygen content to below 15% so materials cannot combust.

According to the British Standard BS 5839, commercial building fire alarm systems should be tested weekly to ensure good working order and to detect any faults before they become life-threatening.


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