Best Practice Guide to Fire Safety


Every year people die or are seriously injured as a result of fires in non-domestic properties. Besides the human risk, fire costs UK business millions of pounds due to property damage, fines, compensation, and insurance premiums. Many businesses find that they are not able to recover from the effects of a fire.
• Who is responsible for fire safety in non-domestic premises?
• What are their duties and responsibilities?
• How can I keep people and property safe?
• What are the possible consequences of failure to act?
• Where can I get help and guidance?
This guide will help to answer these questions and help you to successfully manage fire safety in commercial premises. UK fire safety legislation places emphasis on preventing fires and reducing risk. Anyone who has some control over premises must take reasonable
steps to reduce the likelihood of fire and make sure people can safely escape if there is a fire. The regulations apply to virtually all non-domestic premises in the United Kingdom; in England and Wales the communal areas (common parts) of blocks of flats, are also included. If you are an employer or have control over the premises or activities that take place on the premises, then you have responsibilities under fire safety legislation. It is your duty to ensure the safety of the people in the premises. In the case of people who are not employers but have control over premises, the extent of your responsibility will depend on the extent of your control. As this can be a complicated issue, it is sensible for organisations to identify clearly who is responsible for what. UK fire safety legislation has slight regional variations which result in different terms used for the person on whom the legislation imposes fire safety duties. In England and Wales this person is known as the ‘Responsible Person’, in Scotland the term ‘Duty Holder’ is often used, while the term ‘Appropriate Person’ is often used in Northern Ireland. In this guide we will refer to this person as the ‘Responsible Person’.
Other differences on requirements of the legislative regimes are discussed in this guide.

Premises Affected

UK fire safety legislation applies to virtually all non-domestic premises and covers nearly every type of building, structure and open space, such as:
• Offices and shops
• Factories and warehouses
• Sleeping accommodation, hotels, hostels, and B&B’s
• Residential care premises, including care homes and hospitals
• Community halls, places of worship and other community premises
• The shared areas of properties (HMO’s) in which several households live (housing laws also apply) Please note, in Scotland and Northern Ireland the legislation applies to the whole HMO, not just the communal area
• Pubs, clubs and restaurants
• Theatres and cinemas
• Educational premises, school and sports centres
• Outdoor events, tents and marquees It does NOT apply to:
• Private homes
• Anything that flies, floats or runs on wheels (unless it is static and used like a building)
• The underground parts of mines
• Fields, woods or land that forms part of agriculture or forestry undertaking


Legislation says that, if you are an employer or a person having control over premises, you are responsible for the safety of everyone who might lawfully be on your premises. This includes employees, visitors or members of the public in the immediate vicinity of your premises (i.e. at an open-air entertainment venue) who might be affected by a fire. The Responsible Person, either on their own or with
any other Responsible Person, must do their best to make sure that everyone on the premises, or nearby, can escape safely if there is a fire. You should pay particular attention to people who may have a disability or anyone who may need special help. You must address the following issues:
• Carry out a fi re risk assessment and identify possible hazards and risks
• Take general fi re precautions
• Principles of fi re prevention are to be applied
• Fire safety arrangements, fi re safety policy and procedures
• Take account of those particularly at risk, i.e. very young people; those with special needs or disabilities; and people working with dangerous substances such as fl ammable liquids
• Provide suitable arrangements to warn people of a fi re in the building such as, a Fire Detection and Alarm (FD&A) system
• Eliminate or reduce risk from dangerous substances (chemicals etc.)
• Additional emergency measures in respect of dangerous substances
• Provide adequate means of escape in the case of a fi re such as suffi cient and suitable fi re exits; fi re doors and compartments; signs, notices and emergency lighting
• Take measures for fi re fi ghting e.g. fi re extinguishers
• An effective fi re emergency plan to be followed in the event of a fi re
• Maintenance of all fi re safety systems and equipment
• Ensure capabilities of employees who are given special tasks in terms of fi re safety and fi re procedures, and provide training to all employees and others who may need it
• Regularly review all these processes and amend if necessary

The Responsible Person


The law applies to you if you are:
• Controlling the premises
• An employer or self-employed person
• Responsible for a part of a dwelling that is used for business purposes
• A charitable or voluntary organisation
• A contractor with a responsibility for maintenance of any premisesor, for example, the fi re protection measures in the premises. Contractors and consultants carrying out fi re risk assessments also have duties under the legislation
• Providing accommodation for paying guests
• The owner or managing agent of a block of fl ats in England and Wales In any building where there is more than one Responsible Person, they must all work together to co-operate, co-ordinate and share information with others as far as is necessary to comply with

The Fire Risk Assessment

At the core of the legislation lies the Fire Risk Assessment. This is an organised appraisal of your premises to enable you to identify
potential fi re hazards and those who might be in danger in the event of fi re and their location. You should evaluate the risks arising from the hazards and decide whether the existing fi re precautions are adequate and identify any measures that need to be taken to further remove or reduce the fi re risk. Fire authorities no longer issue fi re certifi cates and those previously in force have no legal status. However, any fi re certifi cates issued in the few years before the new legislation came into force may be a good starting point for your fi re risk assessment. If your premises has been designed, built and approved in accordance with Building Regulations, then the fi re precautions forming part of the structure, such as fi re doors, fi re alarms and emergency lighting, should be acceptable. However, it is critical that these and other elements of the fi re precautions are relevant to the risks and hazards. These other elements include the use of the building; the provision of fi re fi ghting equipment; the training of personnel and the management and maintenance of all fi re precautions. If your organisation employs fi ve or more people; or your premises are licensed; or an alterations notice is in force you must record the signifi cant fi ndings of the assessment. But it is good practice to record your signifi cant fi ndings in any case. It is very important that the person carrying out the fi re risk assessment is competent to do it. The law requires that where employers delegate this task to employees they must take into account their capability. Legal liability may arise on the part of both the Responsible Person and the fi re risk assessor if the fi re risk assessment is inadequate and people are placed at risk of serious injury or death in the event of fire. Competence does not necessarily depend on the possession of specifi c qualifi cations. In small simple buildings and/or where the fi re risk is relatively low, it is possible that an employee may study the appropriate guidance document, and with access to external help and advice, conduct a satisfactory fi re risk assessment. However, for higher risk or more complex premises a higher level of knowledge and experience is required of the fi re risk assessor. In this case, a risk assessor will need to have the specific applied knowledge and skills of an appropriately qualifi ed specialist. Evidence of specialist training and experience, or membership of a professional body, can enable suitable competence to be demonstrated. Numerous examples of inconsistencies in fi re risk assessments have lead to widespread calls for a defi nition of competence. What is needed is a standard against which to benchmark assessors to offer safety, security, and assurance for the user. Several professional bodies operate risk assessor registers and there are certifi cation schemes in place for both individuals and companies.The Fire Industry Association believes that the ultimate goal should be that anybody trading in the provision of fi re risk assessments should be third party certifi cated for the purpose. The Five Steps to Completing a Fire Risk Assessment

This means looking for sources of heat, fuel and oxygen which together might lead to a fi re. You need to identify:
• Sources of ignition such as naked fl ames, heaters or some commercial processes
• Sources of fuel such as built up waste, display materials, textiles or overstocked products
• Sources of oxygen such as air conditioning, medicinal or commercial oxygen supplies
• You should also consider what existing measures are in place to control the hazards

You will need to identify anyone who may be affected, such as:
• People working near to fi re hazards
• People working alone or in isolated areas (i.e. roof spaces or storerooms)
• Maintenance staff, contractors, passers-by and people present outside normal working hours such as, cleaners and security guards
• Visitors and members of the public
• Individuals and groups who may be especially at risk, e.g. young or inexperienced workers, people with mobility or sensory impairment, pregnant workers, children or parents with babies, elderly or infi rm people etc.

This involves evaluating the level of risk in your premises. You should remove or reduce any fi re hazards where possible and reduce any risks you have identifi ed. For example:
• Replace highly fl ammable materials with less fl ammable ones
• Make sure you separate fl ammable materials from sources of ignition
• Have a no smoking policy
• Ensure adequate inspection and testing of electrical installations and equipment When you have reduced the risks as far as possible,
you must assess any risk that is left and decide whether there are any further measures you need to take to make sure you provide a reasonable level of fi re safety. The evaluation of risk will take account of the fi re risk assessor’s opinion of the likelihood of fi re,
the extent of injury that could occur and the number of people who could be affected. All equipment and systems required by legislation must be subject to suitable testing and maintenance.

It is always good practice to record the signifi cant fi ndings of the fi re risk assessment, the steps that you have already taken and those that you plan to take in order to reduce the risk. In many cases the law requires that the signifi cant fi ndings of the fi re risk
assessment and details of those persons especially at risk are recorded.
• Record signifi cant fi ndings and actions taken to remove/reduce the risk from fi re
• Develop and implement an appropriate emergency plan
• Inform and instruct relevant persons on the actions to be taken in the event of fi re

• Deliver training to employees, particularly those with specifi c duties (fi re marshals). See the Fire Safety Training section (page 22) for more detail on aspects of staff fi re safety training.

• Whenever you have cause to consider it is no longer valid, e.g. after a signifi cant incident or "near miss"
• If there has been a signifi cant change in the workplace, e.g. changes to plant, equipment, processes, or substances used etc.

• If there has been a signifi cant change in the number, character or needs of persons who use the building

Protective Measures

The risk assessment should identify a specifi c range of protective measures that are appropriate for the particular type of premises and usage of the premises. The combination of measures will vary with the application but the following is a list of topics that need to be considered:
• Structural and passive fi re protection
• Fire detection and warning systems
• Means of escape (escape routes), emergency escape lighting
• Signs and notices
• Fire fi ghting equipment and facilities
• Kitchen fi re suppression systems
• Sprinkler and other water-based extinguishing systems
• Gaseous extinguishing systems
• Other fi xed fi re extinguishing systems
• Recording, planning, informing, instructing and training


Structural and passive fi re protection is the primary measure integrated within the constructional fabric of a building to provide inherent fi re safety and protection. In the event of fi re, these measures will provide the fundamental requirements of structural stability, fi re separation through building compartmentation and safe means of escape. Local building regulations will defi ne the regional requirements for these measures:
• England and Wales: The Building Regulations 2010
• Northern Ireland: The Building Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2000 (as amended 2010)
• Scotland: The Building (Scotland) Regulations 2004, (as amended) Various structural and passive fi re protection measures may be necessary to limit and control the spread of fl ame, heat and smoke from a fi re. The following are some of the measures that need to be considered:
• Structural steel protection
• Fire walls and partitioning
• Fire and smoke curtains
• Fire rated ductwork and dampers
• Fire doors
• Fire resistant glazing
• Intumescent sealing systems
• Cavity fi re barriers
• Fire stopping or seals for penetration of fi re barriers

Note that penetrations of walls and fl oors by pipes and other services may provide a ready path for the spread of fi re. The linings and decorative fi nishes of buildings must also be considered as linings can promote the spread and development of fi re. In buildings with large areas of drapes, consideration may should be given to the fl ammability. Similarly, the fl ammability of furniture and furnishings may need to be considered. Other hazards include excessive layers of paint on the walls and ceiling of escape routes. Ventilation and air-conditioning systems can also provide a path for the spread of fi re and smoke. Measures to reduce the risk may include a combination of fi re and smoke dampers, and the interconnection of forced ventilation and airconditioning systems to the fi re alarm system. Further information on these products and systems may be found on the following websites:
• Association for Specialist Fire Protection:
• Passive Fire Protection Federation:

Fire Detection and Alarm Systems

A fi re in your premises must be detected quickly and a warning given, allowing people to escape safely. Fire can be detected by people and manual fi re detection may be all that is required. However an automatic fi re detection and alarm system is normally
considered necessary in the following buildings/ situations:
• Buildings in which people sleep
• Covered shopping complexes and large or complex places of assembly
• Buildings with phased evacuation
• In compensation for a reduction in standards of certain other fi re protection measures (e.g. extended travel distance or reduction in the fi re resistance of construction protecting the escape route)
• In lieu of vision between an inner room and its associated access room
• As a means of automatically operating other fi re protection measures such as closing fi re doors, the release of electronically locked doors or initiation of smoke control systems An appropriate FD&A system will warn everyone in the building at the earliest opportunity so that they can exit the building or follow other instructions that are issued, and to also alert the Fire Brigade to allow early intervention. The FD&A system may be connected to other systems or equipment for the automatic control of fi re protection measures, e.g. fi re dampers or fi xed extinguishing systems. Different types of fi re detector are suitable for different parts of your premises. Before installing an FD&A system, discuss your proposals with an appropriately qualifi ed and experienced specialist. Fire alarm systems should be installed by companies certifi ed to either LPS1014 or SP203-1 third party certifi cation schemes which prove their competence in that area. FD&A systems installed in commercial premises should be designed, installed, tested and maintained
in accordance with BS 5839-1 recommendations. Systems can vary from small simple systems with one or two manual call points and sounders to systems which incorporate a large number of automatic fi re detectors, manual call points and sounders connected to numerous intercommunicating control and indicating panels. Systems may also be designed to include sophisticated techniques to avoid false alarm. Various audio and visual alarm systems are available to manage the controlled evacuation of a building in the event of a fire. A wide range of equipment is available that will cater for the FD&A requirements of any type of premises. The types of equipment recommended may include some of the following range of products:
• All systems will include manual call points that allow people to raise a fire alarm, commonly known as “break glass” units
• Point detectors are designed to detect one or more of the four characteristics of fire; heat, smoke, combustion gas (i.e. carbon monoxide), or radiation (i.e. infra-red or ultra violet)
• Multi-sensor detectors combine detector technology to improve the detection characteristics and reject false alarms
• Optical beam detectors provide economical and effective protection of large, open plan spaces where the use of traditional detection technologies would prove to be difficult and/or costly to install
• Line type heat detectors are used in large industrial paces such as tunnels or car parks with adverse environmental conditions
• Aspirating smoke detectors are traditionally associated with early warning, high sensitivity applications such as the protection of computer rooms but they are also widely used to provide flexible and discrete detection solutions – for example in inaccessible, harsh, unusually high or aesthetically sensitive areas
• Sounders and bells give an audible fire alarm warning but these may be supplemented by voice alarm devices that give spoken instructions, or even a sophisticated voice alarm system
• Wireless systems are available which provide solutions where wired installations are not suitable
• Other devices, such as visual alarms or beacons, are used if there is a risk of audio signals not being adequately heard by all occupants, either for disability reasons or by use of ear defenders. The operation of all this equipment is coordinated and controlled by a control and indicating panel. This piece of equipment allows the day to day test and running of the fire alarm system but is also at the centre of managing what happens in the event of a fire alarm. The control and indicating panel may indicate only the zone in which a detector or call point has been activated or it may be a fully addressable panel giving details and location of the individual detector
or call point that has operated. There should always be a zone plan displayed alongside the fire alarm control and indicator panel.

Means of Escape

When considering the likely consequences of fire, the fire risk assessor needs to take into account the effects of fire on escape routes; considering how quickly fire could be detected, how quickly it may grow; how it could affect the escape routes; and how quickly people in the building are likely to respond to an alarm. In general, adequate means of escape are provided if people can immediately, or within a short distance of travel, turn their back on any fire and move away from it to a final exit along smoke-free
escape routes. It is important to consider how many people will use the escape route and make arrangements for disabled or elderly people. The escape route should be as short as possible and the impact of a blocked escape route must be considered. Of course,
precautions should be taken to ensure this does not happen! Emergency lighting and escape route signage should be installed and all employees must be informed and trained in how to escape the building. There are several critical factors in the assessment of
means of escape:
• Maximum distance occupants must travel to reach a place of relative or ultimate safety such as an exit to a protected stairways or a final exit
• Avoidance of long dead ends in which escape is only possible in one direction
• Number, distribution and width of story exits and final exits
• Means of protecting the escape routes from ingress or build up of smoke that might prevent occupants escaping
• Ability of occupants to use the escape routes especially arrangements for people with disabilities In large or complex buildings, the advice of specialists on the adequacy of means of escape will often be necessary


The primary purpose of emergency lighting (or emergency escape lighting) is to illuminate escape routes but it is also provided to illuminate signs and other safety equipment. The size and type of your premises and the risk to the occupants will determine the complexity of the emergency lighting required. In larger more complex premises a comprehensive system of fixed automatic escape lighting is likely to be needed. This will be particularly true in premises where there are significant numbers of staff or members of the public. If escape routes require artificial illumination, you need to consider whether emergency lighting is necessary. The fire risk assessment will judge the likelihood that a fire will cause the normal lighting on any part of the escape route to fail before occupants
escape from the area. This loss of normal lighting could result in injury as people try to evacuate the building. Risk factors to consider include:
• Length and complexity of the escape routes
• Familiarity of the occupants with the building
• Measures to control the development of fi re
• Measures to provide early warning of fi re
• Presence of borrowed light (e.g. from street lighting)
• Hours during which people are using the building
• Presence of sleeping accommodation
• Presence of windowless areas
Emergency lighting systems should conform to the recommendations in BS 5266-1 and the requirements of BS 5266-7 and 8. An emergency lighting system should normally cover the following:
• Each exit door
• Escape routes
• Intersections of corridors
• Outside each final exit and on external escape routes
• Emergency escape signs
• Stairways so that each flight receives adequate light
• Changes in floor level
• Windowless rooms and toilet accommodation exceeding 8m2
• Fire fighting equipment
• Fire alarm call points
• Equipment that would need to be shut down in an emergency
• Lifts
• Rooms greater than 60m2

It is not necessary to provide individual lights (luminaries) for each item above, but there should be a sufficient level of light overall to allow them to be visible and usable.
Emergency lighting can be ‘maintained’, i.e. on all the time, or ‘non-maintained’, i.e. normally off and only operates when the normal lighting fails. Emergency lights should operate for one, two or three hours, depending on the application but in practice most emergency lights are three hour. Emergency lights will also provide for some use in the premises during a power failure other than in an emergency situation.


Self contained emergency lights with the battery and charger built into the light fitting are commonly used. In large buildings central systems may be used where the batteries and charger are remote from the light fittings. In some cases an emergency light doubles as
an internally illuminated exit sign. However it is not recommended to simply stick an exit sign over an emergency light fitting as this will probably reduce the light output and so may become ineffective as an emergency light. There should be a simple method of testing the emergency lights without interfering with the normal lighting from the consumer unit (see image below):

Signs and Notices

In order for occupants, particularly those who are unfamiliar with the building, to use the building safely, there is normally a need to provide fire exit signs to direct people towards alternative means of escape. It is therefore important to consider the adequacy of such signage in the fire risk assessment. The Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996 requires that these signs incorporate the appropriate pictogram. Guidance on escape routes signs is given in BS 5499-4, and EN ISO 7010 has recently been published creating a new European Standard for safety signs. In the course of the fire risk assessment, there is also a need to consider whether other forms of fire safety signs and notices are necessary, and whether existing signs are adequate. Examples include:
• Safe condition signs, e.g. indicating the use of escape hardware
• Signs on fire doors indicating the need for doors to be shut, kept locked shut or kept clear as appropriate
• Other mandatory signs such as those indicating the need to keep a fire exit clear
• Fire equipment signs primarily where equipment is hidden from direct view, e.g. fi re extinguishers
• No smoking signs
• Fire procedure notices
All signs and notices will need illumination to ensure they are conspicuous and legible. They may be externally illuminated or internally illuminated. Signs or notices of the photo-luminescent type need a period of exposure to light before they become visible in darkness.

In simple premises a few signs indicating the alternative exit(s) might be all that is needed. In larger and more complex premises, a series of signs directing people along the escape routes towards the final exit might be needed. An “Exit”, “Fire exit” or “Emergency exit” sign should be positioned over every final exit from the building and, where appropriate, any gate or final exit from the premises. Where the sign over the final exit is not visible, additional signs should be provided with appropriate direction arrows leading to the final exit. To comply with the Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996, escape route signs should be white on a green background and consist of a pictogram, where necessary an arrow and maybe provided with text. In the UK we normally use signs complying with BS 5499-1 but an alternative “Euro Style” sign has also been in use. It is important that Where signs are mounted above doors they should be mounted at 2m to 2.5m above finished floor level and where they are fixed on walls they should be mounted a 1.7m to 2.0m above finished floor level. All escape route signs must be provided with normal lighting and emergency lighting. The size of the sign depends on the distance it would be viewed from. The maximum distance (d) from where the sign will be viewed should be no more than 100 times the height of the sign (h) where normally lit, and 200 times the height of the sign (h) when lit from behind (see following diagram). the two styles are not mixed in the same building. Also recent research has shown that the “Euro” style sign has not been well understood by the public. This has led to the development of a new Standard EN ISO 7010 based on the BS 5499-1 Standard and the introduction of this Standard during 2011 will lead to the “Euro” sign being phased out.

Many people with poor vision retain some sight and are able to recognise changing or contrasting colour to provide them with visual clues when moving around a building. It may be sufficient to paint any columns and walls in a contrasting colour and to highlight changes in level by, for example, making the nosing to step and stair treads a contrasting colour (BS 8300 has more information on this). For people with no sight, a well-managed ‘buddy system’; continuous handrails; a sound localisation system (which helps people to move towards an alert sound); or the installation of more tactile aids may be appropriate. Exit signs should be clearly visible whenever the public, staff and contractors are present. In multi-occupied premises, co-operation between the respective Responsible Persons should be sought to ensure that all signs in the building conform to a single pattern or scheme.


Safety signs and notices are used to inform employees and other people in the premises. A number of mandatory signs may be necessary in your building:
• ‘Fire action notice’ – Instructions in the event of a fire
• ‘Fire door – keep shut’ – For use on self closing fire doors
• ‘Fire door – keep locked shut’ – Outside fi reresisting doors to cupboards normally locked
• ‘Push bar to open’ – On all doors fi tted with a panic bolt
• ‘Fire escape – keep clear’ – On fi re doors which may become obstructed The shape and colour of a sign is an important clue as to their meaning. Here are some examples:

       Fire Safety                    Safe Condition              Prohibition               Hazard                   Mandatory
Location of equipment             A safe place               Must not do                 Warning                    Must do

Extinguisher “ID” signs are often integrated with information about the type of extinguisher and its use. If not, they should be positioned close to the extinguisher where they can be easily read.

A Fire Action Notice is an effective means of providing information to employees and others who must be provided with information about emergency procedures. They should be positioned where they are readily accessible; typically near fi re alarm call points, in staff rest rooms and on the back of hotel bedroom doors.

If your premises are routinely expected to accommodate people whose fi rst language is not English you may
need to consider providing instruction in more than one language. The interpretation should always convey an
identical message.

Fire Fighting Equipment and Facilities

Your risk assessment may identify the need for fi re fi ghting equipment such as:

• Portable fi re extinguishers
• Fire blankets
• Fire buckets
• Hose reels
• Sprinkler systems
• Watermist systems
• Waterspray systems
• Gaseous fi xed fi re extinguishing systems
• Foam systems
• Powder systems
• Kitchen fi re suppression systems
• Facilities for use by fi re fi ghters including fi re mains, fi re fi ghting lifts and fi re fi ghters switches for highvoltage illuminated signs

The sections that follow will give more information about this equipment to help provide a basic understanding of its applications and use.


Critical parts of UK fi re legislation are the general fi re precautions or fi re safety measures that the responsible person will need to take to comply with the law. Key measures of these general fi re precautions can, in part, be met by the adequate provision of portable
fi re extinguishers, the application of a suitable system of maintenance and effective training in their use. Portable fi re extinguishers are able to control or extinguish small fi res, preventing them from developing into big ones before Fire & Rescue Service arrive. Portable fi re extinguishers are valuable in the early stages of fi re because of their portability, immediate availability and easy use by one person.

People are not expected to deal with a large fi re, since extinguishers are essentially fi rst aid fi re fi ghting appliances of a limited capacity. But their ability to help contain the spread of fi re may be vital until the Fire & Rescue Service arrive. The capability to contain and prevent the spread of small fi res is an essential tool in meeting general fi re precaution measures or fi re safety measures required
by law. Portable fi re extinguishers can reduce the likelihood of the spread of fi re on the premises and mitigate the effects of the fi re on people, property and the environment. Fire fi ghting equipment should be simple to use, essentially, a pull-pin, point and squeeze handle operation. This makes them easy for anyone to use. However, the usefulness of portable fi re extinguishers depends on people knowing how to use them. All modern extinguishers have clear instructions on them. Where there are employees some, and preferably all, should be provided with formal training. Various types of portable fi re fi ghting equipment are available, ranging from the simple fi re bucket with water or sand through to water-based extinguishers as well as foam, powder, CO2 and wet chemical extinguishers.
Guidance in BS 5306-8, the code of practice for fi re extinguishing installations and equipment on premises, advises on the selection and installation of portable fi re extinguishers. Recommendations are given on the type, quantity and rating of fi re extinguishers that
should be used and where they should be located such as on escape routes, stairwells, fi re exits and corridors. This will ensure that the means of escape can be safely and effectively used at all times. The type of a fi re extinguisher will be dictated by the fi re class and this is defi ned in the table below. Fire Safety Legislation requires that fi re safety

Fire Class Description Example Materials Extinguisher Type / media
A Flammable solids Wood, paper, cloth Water, Foam, Powder
B Flammable liquids Petrol, solvents Foam, Powder, CO2
C Flammable gases Propane, LPG Powder
D Flammable metals Magnesium, lithium Class D powder
F Cooking oils Cooking oils and fats Class F (e.g. wet chemical)

equipment should be installed, commissioned and maintained by a competent person. It is strongly recommended that installation,
commissioning and maintenance of portable fi re extinguishers be carried out by a BAFE SP101/ST104 certifi ed company. This provides assurance that the service provider is competent. Portable fi re extinguishers form only part of building fi re protection, and it should not be assumed that their provision removes the need for other protection. For more details on the types, use and colours of
various portable fi re extinguishers see Fact File 11 which is available on the FIA website:


Hose reels can be installed in all types of building, from factories and storage facilities to offi ces, shops and transport centres as well as schools, healthcare facilities, hotels, and prisons.


Several water-based fi xed fi re extinguishing systems are available and these systems can be installed in many types of building. The type and size of system and the requirement for pumps and other equipment will be determined by the system designer. Sprinkler systems should be installed to EN 12845 by companies certifi ed to either FIRAS or LPS 1048 third party certifi cation schemes, which will prove their competence in this area. Most sprinkler systems are installed for property protection but very often they play a part in an

engineered fi re safety solution for a building. Sprinkler systems can be installed in many types of building. The size of system and the requirement for pumps and other equipment will be determined by the system designer. Several types of sprinkler system are available to suppress fi res in ordinary combustibles:
• The most common sprinkler system is a wet pipe installation in which the system is permanently charged with water under pressure.
• Dry pipe systems are used where the system may experience low temperatures that would freeze the water.
• Pre-action systems are similar to dry pipe systems where the system is maintained dry and water is allowed into the system following activation of a fi re detector.
• In deluge systems the pipework is empty and unpressurised, and in this case the nozzles are open (i.e. without heat sensitive elements). A separate fi re detection system is used to activate deluge valves, allowing water to enter the piping system. Water
fl ows from all nozzles simultaneously. These systems are used where rapid spread of fi re is a concern.
• Waterspray fi re protection systems are specialised versions of a deluge system; the piping and discharge nozzle spray patterns are designed to protect a uniquely confi gured hazard.
• Watermist fi re protection systems utilise the large surface area of very small droplets of water to rapidly absorb heat by generating steam. In addition, the steam reduces oxygen in the vicinity of the fi re. Watermist systems may use nozzles with glass bulbs (like sprinklers) for fi re suppression of limited amounts of ordinary combustibles, or may have open nozzles for fi re extinguishment of fl ammable liquid fi res.


Three groups of gaseous fi xed fi re extinguishing systems are available:
• Inert gas systems
• Chemical gas systems
• CO2 systems
Gas extinguishing systems are normally used in computer rooms, IT server rooms, indoor transformers and switchgear; telecommunications, generators, engine enclosures, turbine enclosures, fl ammableliquid stores, archive storage areas, warehouse, cold stores and laboratories. Inert gases and chemical gases, often referred to as clean agent systems have replaced halon 1301 as an
extinguishing agent except for certain critical uses. Generally gaseous fi re protection systems are operated by specifi c automatic fi re detection systems in which detector provision and spacing is confi gured to give very early detection. Usually the activation of two detector heads is necessary to discharge the gas, (coincidence detection). A warning is normally given in the protected area before the gas discharges to allow personnel to leave the area. CO2 systems have been used for many years for industrial hazards, but used in occupied areas for safety reasons. Gaseous extinguishing systems should be designed, installed and maintained to EN 15004, (inert and chemical gases) or BS 5306-4, (CO2) by companies certifi cated to either LPS 1204, SP 202 or SP 203-3 third party certifi cation schemes, which prove their competence in this area.


There are other fi xed extinguishing systems that are available and will suit certain applications. Some of the most common systems are described below. Foam systems are used for areas where fl ammable liquids and/or plastics are handled and stored. Foam forms a blanket over the surface of fl ammable liquids to extinguish the fi re. Foam may also be used to enhance watermist and waterspray systems. Typical applications include; fl ammable liquid hazards; storage tanks and bunds; warehousing (foam enhanced sprinklers); process areas (foam enhancedwaterspray); machinery; aircraft hangers and fl ammable liquid transport. Foam systems should be designed, installed and maintained to EN 13565-2. Powder fi re protection systems are used in areas where ordinary combustibles, electrical hazards, fl ammable or combustible materials may be present but which are not normally occupied. Applications include turbines; hydraulic machinery and engines, fl ammable liquid handling/storage; storage of liquid natural gas. Powder fi re protection systems should be designed, installed and maintained to EN 12416-2. Kitchen fi re extinguishing systems are fi xed fi re extinguishing systems designed for the protection of catering equipment where cooking oil or fat is present, such as cooking appliances and their related extract systems and fi lters. These systems can be used to protect all commercial cooking equipment and are not just limited to kitchens. Whilst there are no British or European product standards for these products they can be tested and approved to LPS 1223 or UL 300. Industrial fryers are often protected by water mist systems (see DD8489-1 and DD8489-6). Hypoxic systems are sometimes used to prevent fi re occurring in enclosures, such as critical archive storage, where the area is normally unmanned but may be entered for short periods.


UK Fire safety legislation requires that the responsible person must ensure that the premises and any protective measures are subject to a suitable system of maintenance. Maintenance is essential for any equipment but particularly for safety critical uses such as fi re safety equipment. All protective measures for fi re safety must be safe, reliable, effi cient, effective and ready for use at all times. The maintenance system should cover all fi re safety equipment, systems and facilities such as, fi re detection and alarm systems; means of escape; emergency lighting; signs; notices and fi re fi ghting equipment. In order to fulfi l the requirement of a suitable system of maintenance, all facilities, equipment or devices must be:
• In an effi cient state; evidence of achievement of a high level of performance against a given measurement
• In effi cient working order; verifi ably ready for use when required for the application designed for and able to operate when needed
• In good repair; well taken care of and in sound condition.

This is achieved by regular checks and proper maintenance procedures. Regular inspection and testing by the responsible person and a competent person is necessary at suitable intervals. These checks ensure that any faults or failings will be found and rectifi ed as quickly as possible.The appropriate checks and procedures can be  found in the relevant codes of practice such as BS 5306 for portable extinguishers and BS 5839 for fi re detection and alarm systems. The defi nition of a competent person will depend on what is being maintained. Generally, a competent person will have undergone a programme of training followed by ‘on the job’ experience. Ideally training will be administered by an independent body, to maintain competency, the competent person should undergo continual professional development. The fi re risk assessment should indicate broadly what measures are required and any obvious failings in existing measures. A competent person specialising in a particular area of fi re safety such as, maintenance of extinguishers or fi re detection and alarm, would be able to provide the specialist knowledge necessary to ensure the fi re safety measures are not only in good working order but remain adequate and appropriate.

Recording, Planning, Informing, Instructing and Training


You will need to record the hazards and people you have identifi ed as especially at risk from the risk assessment. You should also record what was done to reduce risks and need to make an emergency plan, tailored to your premises. If your organisation employs more than fi ve people, you must record the fi ndings of your fire risk assessment and the actions you’ve taken. The record should include:
• Fire hazards you’ve identified
• People who may be at risk
• Protective measures you’ve taken or will take to remove / reduce the risk to people
• Procedures that need to be followed in case of fi re, including details of any people nominated to carry out a particular function

• Information, instruction and training that people need and how it will be givenIn some small low risk premises, record keeping may
be no more than a folder containing a few sheets of paper with the signifi cant fi ndings, the action taken and a copy of the emergency plan. It’s good practice to attach a simple plan of the premises to your record too. Keep a dedicated record of the following information:
• Signifi cant fi ndings
• Action taken
• Systems for the maintenance and regular testing of fi re precautions
• Training given
• A copy of the emergency plan


It is essential to have an emergency evacuation plan for your premises. This plan will need to deal with any fi re situation and its purpose is to make sure that people on your premises know what to do if there’s a fire and the premises has to be evacuated.


Clear, relevant information and appropriate instructions must be given to staff and other people working on site, such as contractors, informing them what they need to do if there’s a fi re. The information and instructions you provide must be in a form that’s easily understood and should take into account those with disabilities, learning diffi culties and those for whom English is not their fi rst language. Staff should be given training on induction and regularly thereafter, depending on the level of risk. The information and instruction you give should be based on your emergency plan and must include:
• Your risk assessment fi ndings
• Measures you’ve put in place to reduce the risk of fire
• What staff should do if there’s a fi re
• Clear identifi cation of the people in the organisation who have fi re safety responsibilities (such as fi re marshals) In small premises where no signifi cant risks have been identifi ed, information and instruction could simply involve an explanation of the fi re procedures and how they’re applied. This could include showing staff escape routes, how to use fi re extinguishers and where they are located. In bigger premises, you should make sure that written instructions are given to those people who have designated tasks. Co-operate and co-ordinate: where a premises is owned by someone else or there are multiple occupiers, it’s important that you inform others of any signifi cant risks that you’ve identifi ed. By talking to other occupiers, you can co-ordinate your resources so that your actions and working practices don’t place others at risk, and so that a co-ordinated emergency plan operates effectively.


You must provide adequate training for your staff. The type of training will depend on the premises but should:
• Refl ect the fi ndings of the fi re risk assessment
• Explain your emergency procedures
• Explain the duties and responsibilities of staff
• Take place in normal working hours and be repeated periodically
• Be easily understandable by staff
• Be tested by fire drills

The responsibilities of staff will include, for example, a weekly test of a fi re detection and alarm system by operating a manual call point. In small premises, showing new staff the fi re exits and giving basic training on what to do if there’s a fi re should be adequate. However, in larger premises with a high staff turnover and shift patterns, your staff training should involve:
• The general fi re precautions in the premises
• What to do on discovering a fi re
• How to raise the alarm
• What to do when you hear an alarm
• Procedures for alerting members of the public and visitors
• Arrangements for calling the emergency services
• Evacuation procedures
• Location and use of fi re fi ghting equipment
• The location of emergency exits
• The importance of keeping fi re doors closed
All staff identifi ed in your emergency plan that have a supervisory role (such as fi re marshals) should be given details of your fi re risk assessment and receive additional training.


The person with primary responsibility for compliance with the legislation is the employer, (i.e. the corporate body that employs people
to work in the premises). However, the legislation also imposes duties on other persons who have control over the premises and on those who maintain premises or facilities such as fi re protection equipment; this will include landlords and managing agents. In England and Wales this person is known as the 'Responsible Person', in Scotland the 'Duty Holder' and Northern Ireland refer to the 'Appropriate Person'. Despite different titles, the duties are essentially to ensure safety of the people on the premises. A critical difference is that legislation in England and Wales extends to cover the communal areas of purpose built blocks of fl ats, which are not included in the legislation in Scotland or Northern Ireland. The regional legislation that defi nes the obligations of the person responsible for fi re safety is as follows:
• In England and Wales the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
• In Scotland the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 in conjunction with the Fire Safety (Scotland) Regulations 2006.
• In Northern Ireland the Fire and Rescue Services (Northern Ireland) Order 2006 in combination with the Fire Safety Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2010.
Despite the use of different precise wording and the differences to how the legislation applies to households, the enactment of the legislation is very similar. The following will describe the general principles of enforcement to give an overview but details of the specific legislation that applies to your region may be found at the website.


The Enforcing Authority is defined as:
• Normally the Fire & Rescue Service for the area where premises are situated

The Health & Safety Executive for certain premises such as construction sites, licensed nuclear installations or a ship under construction or repair
• Defence Fire Service for property occupied solely by the armed forces
• The local authority in the case of a sports ground or regulated stand
• A fire inspector or person authorised for premises occupied by the Crown or UK Atomic Energy Authority


Inspectors can make formal enquiries or require the production of documentation, records or information that will allow determination of
compliance with the legislation. The following is a list of the powers of inspection:
• Enter and inspect any premises and anything in them. This may be done at any reasonable time, or if a situation may be dangerous, at any time
• Require you to provide facilities, information, documents, records or assistance as reasonably requested
• Inspect and copy any documents or records on the relevant premises, or remove them from the relevant premises
• Carry out inspections, measurements and tests, to the premises or an article or substance found on the premises
• Take samples from the premises to ascertain their fire resistance or fl ammability
• Dismantle any article deemed dangerous in event of fire for inspection or testing


Alterations Notices are issued if the Enforcing Authority considers there to be:
• A serious (but controlled) risk to persons, whether due to the features of the premises, their use, any hazard present, or any other circumstances
• A serious risk, if a change is made to the premises, or the use to which they are put Where an Alterations Notice has been served, you must notify the Enforcing Authority before making:
• Any changes to the services, fittings or equipment in or on the premises
• An increase in the quantities of dangerous substances which are in or on the premises

• A change to the use of the premises which may result in a signifi cant increase in risk


An Enforcement Notice is served when the Enforcing Authority believes that the Responsible Person has failed to comply with the requirements of the legislation. An Enforcement Notice will state where there is non-compliance with the duties and why. The Notice will indicate steps that need to be taken in order to remedy the non-compliance. The Responsible Person is then required to take action to remedy the non-compliance within a specifi ed period which will not be less than 28 days.


A Prohibition Notice is used to prohibit or restrict the use of premises in serious cases to prevent loss of life or serious injury. The Notice will be served on the occupier of premises and requires that those at risk are informed immediately. When assessing the risks in deciding whether to apply a Prohibition Notice, the enforcement offi cer will have particular regard to anything affecting the escape from a fi re. A Prohibition Notice may take effect immediately if the enforcing authority considers the risk to be imminent. Otherwise, it will take effect from a specifi ed date. The Notice will specify the problems and may indicate measures that must be taken to remedy
the situation.


Putting people at risk of death or injury by not complying with fi re safety duties is a criminal offence. There are various offences that can be committed and sanctions that may be applied (refer to the actual legislation for details). Offences are subject to a penalty of a fi ne if taken through the minor court, or on conviction on indictment, to an unlimited fi ne and/or a prison term for serious offences.


You can appeal to the court within 21 days of being served an Alteration, Enforcement or Prohibition Notice. The court may cancel, confi rm or modify the Notice.

Further Guidance

England and Wales: The Building Regulations 2010 Northern Ireland: The Building Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2000 (as amended 2010) Scotland: The Building (Scotland) Regulations 2004, (as amended 2010)

Association for Specialist Fire Protection:
Passive Fire Protection Federation:


For England and Wales, the website gives further guidance, including documents for different types of premises and the following topics:
• Escape routes, emergency escape lighting
• Guidance on signs and notices
• Guidance on recording, planning, informing, instructing and training
• Quality assurance of fi re protection equipment and installation
• Example fi re safety maintenance checklist
• Technical information on separation, fi re doors and door fastenings
For information on fi re safety law for business visit: re/fi resafety/fi resafetylaw/ and for documents go to: re/pdf/151543.pdf


Practical advice for businesses can also be found at:

This is a list of all the websites and publications used to create this Best Practice Guide

• England and Wales: The Building Regulations 2010
• Northern Ireland: The Building Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2000 (as amended 2010)
• Scotland: The Building (Scotland) Regulations 2004, (as amended 2010)
• LPS 1048 Requirements for the Approval of Sprinkler System Contractors in the UK and Eire: LPCB (part of BRE Global) Bucknalls Lane, Garston, Watford, UK WD25 9XX
• LPS 1204 Requirements for Firms Engaged in the Design, Installation, Commissioning and Servicing of Gas Extinguishing Systems: LPCB (part of BRE Global) Bucknalls Lane, Garston, Watford, UK WD25 9XX
• LPS 1223 – Requirements and Testing Procedures for the LPCB Certifi cation and Listing of Fixed Fire Extinguishing Systems for Catering Equipment: LPCB (part of BRE Global) Bucknalls Lane, Garston, Watford, UK WD25 9XX
• UL 300 Fire Testing of Fire Extinguishing Systems for Protection of Commercial Cooking Equipment, Underwrites Laboratories Inc, 333 Pfi ngsten Road, Northbrook, IL 60062 USA
• SP101/ST104 Contract Maintenance of Portable Fire Extinguishers incorporating Registered Fire Extiguisher Service Technicians Scheme: BAFE (British Approvals for Fire Equipment), Bridges 2, The Fire Service College, London Road, Moreton in Marsh,
Gloucestershire GL56 0RH
• SP203-1 Fire Detection and Alarm Systems Scheme: BAFE (British Approvals for Fire Equipment), Bridges 2, The Fire Service College, London Road, Moreton in Marsh, Gloucestershire GL56 0RH
• SP203-3 Fixed Gaseous Fire Suppression Systems: BAFE (British Approvals for Fire Equipment), Bridges 2, The Fire Service College, London Road, Moreton in Marsh, Gloucestershire GL56 0RH

• Association for Specialist Fire Protection:
• re/pdf/151543.pdf
• re/nationalframework/
• re/fi resafety/fi resafetylaw/
• re/fi resafetyrisk4
• Manchester FRS: www.manchesterfi re_safety_advice/business_fi re_safety/legislation_explained.aspx
• NI Direct: re_safety#f1
• Northern Ireland FRS: resafe/
• Passive Fire Protection Federation:
• Southwales-fi re: www.southwales-fi re_safety/Pages/