Robert Catanzaro, MD of Fire Crest Fire Protection, presents five simple steps a local holiday home owner can take today to stay fire safe
In this health and safety conscious world, everyone is looking for answers – simple ways to ensure your business is legal and safe for employees and guests.
But you’re busy – you don’t have time to trawl Government websites searching for the latest guidelines.
So how do you keep up to speed with legislation to ensure your holiday home is legal?
If you bury your head in the sand and never answer that question, the penalties are harsh.
A recent case in the New Forest saw a holiday home owner fined more than £10,000 after he flouted numerous fire safety standards. And it isn’t just financial. The safety of guests and employees is also at risk.
So here are the basics of fire safety if you own or manage a guest house, B&B, holiday cottage or holiday home.
Am I legally bound to have fire safety in place?
The reality is, if you employ staff or serve customers from your premises, you have a legal obligation to protect them.
Follow these five simple steps and enjoy peace of mind that your holiday property follows the guidance set out in the official Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
1. Carry out and review a fire risk assessment of your premises
If your business has five or more people you must keep a written record of your fire risk assessment – this means taking a look at your premises, considering the people who may use them, the likelihood of a fire breaking out, and the measures you have in place to minimise risk.
A comprehensive fire risk assessment could include the identification of fire hazards and people at risk, emergency routes and exits, fire detection and warning systems, fire-fighting equipment, the emergency fire evacuation plan, the needs of vulnerable people, and providing information to employees and other people on the premises.
You may be able to do this risk assessment yourself, and as the owner of the properties you are probably best placed to identify and minimise risks. There is a selection of fire risk assessment templates on the Government’s fire safety website you can download and complete for free. Or speak to your local fire protection company for recommendations.
2. Tell staff about the risks you’ve identified
Having conducted your risk assessment and completed a hard copy of your report, you need to tell staff about any risks you’ve identified.
Perhaps you could hold a monthly briefing to inform the existing team, you could distribute the information with wage slips, or include it in the induction process for new staff.
3. Put in place and maintain appropriate fire safety measures
The law doesn’t require any particular measures to be in place – what you need depends on your business and your premises, but it does say that you must adequately manage the overall risk.
This may include looking at whether your fire alarms are well maintained, exits are clear and well sign-posted, and whether evacuation procedures are clear to guests and staff.
If a fire were to break out, how would staff and guests be informed? How would they evacuate? Have you considered vulnerable guests such as young children, older people and people with disabilities?
Address these issues within your risk assessment.
4. Plan for an emergency
Within your fire risk assessment, you will also need to include information on what would happen in an emergency. This section must show how you have:
- A clear passageway to all escape routes
- Enough exits and routes for all people to escape
- Clearly marked escape routes, as direct as possible
- Emergency doors that easily open
5. Provide staff information, fire safety instruction and training
Your plan for an emergency should also include training for all employees, with clear guidance on how to use the escape routes and where to meet safely once evacuated from the building.
Depending on the size of your business, you may want to consider having designated fire wardens within your team, who can take control and lead staff and guests to safety should the worst happen.
Their role will also include the day-to-day management and identification of fire risks.
If you don’t do a risk assessment, you are breaking the law and being busy just won’t cut it as an excuse if anything goes wrong.
Take action today, download a free fire risk assessment template online and say goodbye to the uncertainty of fire safety legislation, the threat of heavy fines and the worry of inadequate provision
Download the Government’s guide on complying with fire safety law if you provide sleeping accommodation:
About the author: Robert Catanzaro, Managing Director of Fire Crest Fire Protection, works with businesses throughout Cornwall on managing their fire safety including extinguisher & fire alarm installation and servicing, fire safety training, and supply of fire safety products