Fire Safety and Protection Needs with Small Businesses

  • 18 May Off

The Annual campaign for Local Business Week 18 – 24 May (http://www.localbusinessweek.co.uk) highlights the challenges of running a small and medium sized business – those businesses that make up 99.9% of the UK’s companies. Understandably one of the major difficulties is keeping up to date and then dealing with the many rules and regulations that are imposed on the small business owner. However, one area that should not be ‘put to the bottom of the pile’ is fire safety. Your staff, customers stock and premises can be put at risk in an instant if proper fire precautions have not been assessed, actioned and maintained.

Current fire protection legislation across the UK requires property managers of all non-residential premises to have adequate fire protection. It is their responsibility to ensure that there is an adequate, updated fire risk assessment and that all aspects of the requirements are carried out competently. This is not only to ensure that customers, staff and premises are adequately protected, but also to minimise the risk of costly unwanted false alarms.

How does the business owner know if their provider of the fire risk assessment, their fire alarms and extinguishers are competent? The most recent CFOA (Chief Fire Officers Association) guidance for the Reduction of False Alarms and Unwanted Fire Signals highlights some of the solutions to this problem, amongst which is the use of third party certificated providers of fire protection services:

View CFOA Guide for the Reduction of False Alarms and Unwanted Fire Signals here

So, what does third party certification mean and why is it the best way to ensure competence? It means that a provider of the service has trained operatives, has good quality management systems and has had their business assessed by a third party, accredited body to ensure that they meet all of the relevant standards – and that they are checked out again every year.

It is mandatory to undertake a ‘suitable and sufficient’ Fire Risk Assessment for commercial buildings, non-domestic and multi-occupancy premises. While the overwhelming majority of premises do this, if the assessment is thought to have been carried out to an insufficient extent, the Responsible Person or Duty Holder can face an unlimited fine or up to two years in prison.

To demonstrate that the responsible person (duty holder in Scotland) has met their obligations, many public authorities and commercial organisations now insist that their fire protection services are carried out by a company that has been third party certificated. Many now specify that providers are BAFE registered.

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and the equivalent legislation in Scotland and Northern Ireland, places specific duties on the Responsible Person or Duty Holder and DCLG states in its guidance documents (section 8):

“Third-party certification schemes for fire protection products and related services are an effective means of providing the fullest possible assurances, offering a level of quality, reliability and safety that non-certificated products may lack.”

BAFE is the independent third party certification, registration body for the fire protection industry. We develop schemes for UKAS accredited certification bodies to assess and approve companies to recognised standards. There are now more than 1200 BAFE registered companies across the UK. Our aim is to support property managers to ensure that they get quality fire protection for their premises, staff and service users.

In 2012 BAFE launched the first UKAS accredited scheme for Companies who carry out Fire Risk Assessments (SP205) which is a vital part of meeting obligations under fire legislation. The scheme considers the competence of the individual assessors as well as the quality requirements for the organisation. There are a growing number of companies registering to the scheme, throughout the UK.

If you are looking for the supply and maintenance of portable extinguishers, look for one of the 356 Companies accredited to BAFE Schemes SP101/ST104. Companies are certificated to ISO9001 and all of their technicians are assessed by BAFE for initial and ongoing competence. There are currently more than 1250 BAFE registered technicians, working for our registered companies.

For installing or maintaining fire alarm systems Companies should hold BAFE modular SP203-1 scheme approval. This scheme includes design, installation, commissioning and maintenance of fire detection systems and also requires that all equipment used is third party certificated. The scheme now has over 780 registered companies. Registration to this BAFE scheme is often a key requirement criteria in tenders for the provision of fire alarms.

Our Emergency Lighting scheme (SP203-4) sets out the standards and staff competence criteria to be met. It is modular as with the fire alarm scheme and is achieving growing recognition from end users.

There are a range of other BAFE schemes covering particular sectors of the fire protection industry and details can be found on the BAFE website, along with a complete search facility to find registered companies in your area.

So if you want to be sure you are getting your fire protection from companies who are properly and regularly assessed you can search for registered companies in your area or look for more information here on bafe.org.uk or you can email us at info@bafe.org.uk