When NOT having a fire disrupts your business

Fire risk assessments are right in the spotlight after recent disasters. Of course, it’s important to be safe – and no business owner or executive wants to be responsible for deaths, but when fire risk assessments are done with a clipboard and checklist you are almost as much at risk as if you don’t do them at all.

No two organisations are the same. Your organisation and the building you occupy; the way you work and the working environment; the people, their roles and responsibilities are all unique – so a tick box approach is unlikely to work effectively. Whilst a fire risk assessment needs to look at how to be compliant – it should not demand unnecessary action.

There are at least three pieces of legislation relating to fire – the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order (FSO), the Housing Act and Building Regulations, through Approved Document B. They all address the issue of fire from different directions causing small businesses a lot of grief.

Currently B&Bs in England and Wales (Scotland got its act together and was proactive in stopping unnecessary action), are being shut down simply because they can’t keep up with all the regulations – usually completely without good reason.

Oppressive enforcement seems to be the order of the day. Instead of a collaborative approach, Government and enforcing authorities are operating independently – and the small business is getting stung from several directions at once.

Even the Governments Better Regulation Executive and the local Better Regulation Office don’t seem to be able to work things out – they’re issuing either conflicting instructions or insisting that, even though you’ve already done something before, you have to repeat the exercise to satisfy their demands. No wonder some businesses are throwing in the towel.

Carrying out a fire risk assessment and taking the actions needed should not be difficult or, in most cases, expensive – unless you’re in a high risk business.

The regulations can seem to state otherwise and getting it wrong can stop your business operating, particularly if over-zealous enforcement authorities issue enforcement or prohibition notices.

If you want to focus on running a successful organisation, engage an experienced fire safety expert, not a general safety practitioner – unless they have fire safety or fire engineering expertise. It’s worth the fee in time saved, money not spent on unnecessary precautions and fines from non-compliance – not to mention letting you get on with running your business.