FIRE SAFETY

Fire Safety is an important part of our work keeping the communities of the West Midlands safe.

Please scroll down to find out how we keep commercial, business and public premises/workplaces safe.

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.

Teams within 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.

Councils enforce the Safety at Sports Ground Act 1975 and Fire Safety & Safety of Places of Sports Act 1987 in the West Midlands. We advise them on fire safety measures in these premises.

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.

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.

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.

Fire-fighting equipment

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.

Evacuation plans

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.

Alterations notice

You could get an alterations notice if your premises have high safety risks, or will have if the use of the premises changes.

Enforcement notice

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.

Prohibition notice

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.

Appeals

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.

Fire safety documentation

Below are some key documents we refer to in our letters and documentation sent to responsible persons.

Name Description Version Download File Type
Fire Safety Service Standards
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.

1.0 Download
Fire Safety Challenges, Appeals and Complaints Procedure
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.

Report 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.

Report a fire safety issue