What is Fire Safety?
We’re striving to keep West Midlands premises and venues safe from fire, so you can work in or visit them safely.
This part of our work involves ensuring that premises comply with The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 designed to protect you from fire, such as:
- your workplace (most workplaces, but with some exceptions)
- your children’s nursery, school, college or university
- a small corner shop or a massive retail complex
- hotels and B&Bs, restaurant and takeaways, and leisure venues such as a gym, concert arena, theatre, cinema, theme park or zoo
- places of worship
- a hostel, medical surgery or hospital, nursing or care home.
Our Teams in Fire Safety
Our fire safety teams cover a range of areas.
Here are the main ones and what they are responsible for:
Certain licences are granted by councils, not us. However, under Article 42 of Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (FSO), the local authorities must ensure that we can make representations before any licence is issued under the Licensing Act 2003. This is to protect ‘public safety’. Some examples are:
- to sell alcohol
- to provide ‘regulated entertainment’
- to provide ‘civil ceremony’ venues
- to provide late-night refreshment
- to provide sexual encounters venues.
Our fire safety inspecting officers review and inspect such premises and we must tell the local authority of any action we take.
We also enforce The Health & Safety At Work Act 1974, The Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002, The Explosives Regulations 2014, The Fireworks (Safety) Regulations 1997, The Fireworks Regulations 2004 etc to ensure that petrol, explosives and fireworks are stored correctly in premises.
For further guidance, or to apply for licences for petrol or explosives, please see our licensing page.
We also play a key role on councils’ Safety Advisory Groups (SAGs). The groups provide a forum for discussing and advising on public safety at an event. They aim to help organisers with the planning and management of an event, and to encourage cooperation and coordination between all relevant agencies.
Our Building Regulations and Planning team is based at our headquarters and consists of Fire Safety Inspecting Officers who work with local authorities. They are specialists who ensure that buildings are constructed and changed in accordance with all fire safety aspects of current building regulations.
Article 45 of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (FSO) says that, where it is proposed to erect, extend, alter or change the use of a building, the council must consult us before passing plans for premises where the Order applies. We then provide ‘observations’ on the plans.
Councils also consult with our Building Regulations Team regarding changes to buildings with a higher risk profile, such as properties that become licensed homes of multiple occupancy, or where the local authority has discovered properties that don’t have the necessary planning or building consents.
This team is also involved in major projects across the West Midlands before they even reach the planning stage. This ensures the infrastructure is in place to support our firefighting needs, and that fire safety provisions are made at the design stage of a structure or complex.
The Building Regulations and Planning team are based at our headquarters.
In spite of our work helping people who are responsible for businesses to comply with their duties under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (FSO), there are occasions when we need to take legal action against them, such as:
- where failure of duties imposed under the Order has led to one or more relevant person being put at risk of death or serious injury because of fire
- when someone fails to comply with an enforcement, prohibition or alterations notice served by us
- where measures put in place to protect firefighters are not maintained (conditions apply).
Under the Order, it is an offence in relation to fire safety measures to:
- fail to comply with general duties of being an employee where that failure places one or more relevant persons at risk of death or serious injury
- keep false records
- give information they know is false
- obstruct an inspector in their duties
- fail to comply, without reasonable excuse, with requirements imposed by an inspector (under Article 27)
- pretend, with the intent to deceive, to be an inspector
- charge an employee with the cost of providing the requirement of the Order
- fail to comply with any prohibition or restriction imposed by a Prohibition Notice.
Our legal team support our fire safety inspecting officers to produce accurate evidence and witness statements. They collate, manage and process all cases through to Magistrates’ and Crown Courts. They conduct interviews in line with PACE and PEACE codes of conduct, issue Simple Cautions, consult with our solicitors and barristers, and represent (where necessary) West Midlands Fire Service in fire safety court cases.
Our Engineering Team apply scientific and engineering principles, rules (Codes) and expert judgement, based on an understanding of the phenomena and effects of fire and of the reaction and behaviour of people to fire, to protect people, property and the environment from its effects.
Our engineers: –
- work with our Building Regulations team to evaluate the effectiveness of alternative solutions proposed by architects and designers to meet the requirements of Building Regulations
- assess and evaluate complex fire safety solutions proposed as part of a fire strategy for a building
- design and advise on alternative ways of providing fire safety measures for clients
- tender applications for the Government’s Primary Authority Scheme, and design and manage the accounts they win.
For more information on fire engineering, go to our Fire Engineering section.
Fire Risk Assessments
Fire Risk Assessments are a legal requirement for workplaces. We can’t complete a fire risk assessment for you, but we can provide advice and guidance. Scroll down to learn who needs to do them, what they involve and the penalties if you fail to do them.
- Who's responsible
- Carrying out your inspection
- Equipment, drills and training
- Evacuation and mobility
- Enforcement, appeals and penalties
- Fire Safety and Risk Assessment Guides
You’re responsible for fire safety in business or other non-domestic premises if you’re:
- an employer
- the owner
- the landlord
- an occupier
- anyone else with control of the premises, eg a facilities manager, building manager, managing agent or risk assessor
You’re known as the ‘responsible person’. If there’s more than one responsible person, you must work together to meet your responsibilities.
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (FSO) also applies if you have paying guests, eg if you run a bed and breakfast or guesthouse, or let a self-catering property.
As the responsible person, you must carry out and regularly review a fire risk assessment of the premises. This will identify what you need to do to prevent fire and keep people safe. You must keep a written record of your fire risk assessment if your business has 5 or more people.
Carrying out the assessment
- identify the fire hazards
- identify people at risk
- evaluate, remove or reduce the risks
- record your findings, prepare an emergency plan and provide training
- review and update the fire risk assessment regularly.
This government fire safety risk assessment chart gives more detailed information about these steps.
You’ll need to consider:
- emergency routes and exits
- fire detection and warning systems
- firefighting equipment
- the removal or safe storage of dangerous substances
- an emergency fire evacuation plan
- the needs of vulnerable people, eg the elderly, young children or those with disabilities
- providing information to employees and other people on the premises
- staff fire safety training.
Specialist guides are available for different types of premises, to include offices and shops, factories and warehouses, sleeping accommodation, residential care premises, educational premises, small and medium places of assembly (holding 300 people or fewer), large places of assembly (holding more than 300 people), theatres, cinemas and similar premises, open air events and venues, healthcare premises, animal premises and stables, transport premises and facilities.
Fire detection and warning systems
You must have a fire detection and warning system. You may need different types of detectors, depending on the type of building and the work carried out in it.
The types of equipment you need depend on your business premises. You’ll need to have any equipment properly installed, tested and maintained and train your staff to use it if necessary.
Maintenance and testing
You must carry out regular checks to make sure that:
- all fire alarm systems are working
- the emergency lighting is working
- you record any faults in systems and equipment
- all escape routes are clear and the floor is in good condition
- all fire escapes can be opened easily
- automatic fire doors close correctly
- fire exit signs are in the right place
You need to train new staff when they start work and tell all employees about any new fire risks.
You should carry out at least one fire drill per year and record the results. You must keep the results as part of your fire safety and evacuation plan.
Your plan must show how you have:
- a clear passageway to all escape routes
- clearly marked escape routes that are as short and direct as possible
- enough exits and routes for all people to escape
- emergency doors that open easily
- emergency lighting where needed
- training for all employees to know and use the escape routes
- a safe meeting point for staff.
People with mobility needs
You should also make special arrangements for people with mobility needs, eg make sure there are people to help wheelchair users get downstairs if there’s a fire.
Enforcement, appeals and penalties
We visit premises to check the fire risk assessment and fire prevention measures are appropriate. Our fire safety officers will help you understand and comply with the rules.
We can also take action if we think your fire safety measures aren’t adequate. For example, we might issue an informal notice suggesting safety measures.
We could also give you a formal fire safety notice and tell you how to fix the problems described in the notice.
You could get an alterations notice if your premises have high safety risks, or will have if the use of the premises changes.
You could get an enforcement notice if we find a serious risk that’s not being managed. It will say what improvements are needed and by when.
These take effect immediately and are issued if we think the fire risk is so great that access to your premises needs to be prohibited or restricted.
You may be able to arrange an informal review by us if you disagree with the decision to issue a fire safety notice. You can also appeal to your local magistrates’ court within 21 days of receiving a notice.
In certain circumstances, you and West Midlands Fire Service can ask for a ‘determination’ from the Communities Secretary to resolve a dispute.
There are a range of guides for assisting with fire safety risk assessments and requirements in a variety of businesses premises types. You can find the different guides linked below.
Fire Safety Documentation
Below are some key documents we refer to in our letters and documentation sent to responsible persons.
|Gives information and links to information regarding the Regulatory functions of the Fire and Rescue Authority (FRA)||1.0||Download|
Provides statement and guidance on the regulatory and enforcement function of the West Midlands Fire and Rescue Authority (the Service) and its appointed inspectors.
|A document detailing what you can do to appeal, challenge or complain regarding any action, decisions, advice or inaction we have taken related to Fire Safety.||1.0||Download|
For premises-specific guides, which are issued by the government, please visit our business safety section.
Tall Buildings and Grenfell
Presently enforceable under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005
- All residents should be aware of the evacuation plan and what they need to do in event of a fire (whether in their flat, the common areas or another flat).
- Fire Doors are extremely important to the passive fire measures in the building. It is important that they are checked regularly to ensure that they continue to carry out their function.
The Building Safety Advice for Building Owners from Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government provides additional information and guidance on external cladding and fire doors.
Recommendations from the Grenfell Tower Inquiry phase 1 report: –
- Regular inspections of individual flat front doors
- each floor should be marked at a low level with the floor number. This action will greatly assist firefighters in the event of a fire and smoke logging of the staircase/corridors. This will improve firefighter safety and ensure that any rescues are not unduly delayed
- that all lifts including firefighting lifts should be inspected regularly, and the reports collated by the responsible person. If a lift fails during a fire incident, immense pressure is placed on those at the incident and delays in tackling the fire and rescue may occur
- fitting of Premises Information Boxes (PIB) – which will contain the provision of secure information to the Fire and Rescue Service for use in firefighting actions
- simple floor plan layouts indicating any relevant fire resistance provisions, internal access provisions, firefighting facilities, building services and specific hazards
- relevant information including operating instructions for any equipment or for any fixed installations for firefighting or means of escape
- fire Engineering strategy
- information relevant to preventing environmental damage
- relevant information and operating instructions relating to lifts provided for means of escape or firefighting
- personal Emergency Evacuation Plans (PEEP) should be arranged for vulnerable people living within the building
- the provision of up-to-date electronic plans for the local Fire and Rescue Service
- An evacuation plan should be clearly visible within the building.
For premises-specific guides, which are issued by the government, please visit our business safety section.
Report a fire safety issue
We hope that all workplace, commercial, business and multiple residency premises’ owners and responsible persons will fully conform to their responsibilities under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (FSO).
If you believe a premises does not meet these standards, you can report this to us and we will investigate.