Some people think if they are just running a little bed and breakfast they don’t need to worry too much about fire safety. In fact, no matter how small your property, if you have paying guests who are not permanent residents then fire safety regulations are applicable. If you’re not sure whether you’re doing enough to comply with the law, read on for some of the basics you should be covering.
Your legal responsibility
Fire safety for businesses in England and Wales is governed by the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own equivalent legislation). This lays out minimum safety standards with which businesses must comply and places responsibility for this onto the owner and/or employees. Each business must have a designated “Responsible Person” whose job it is to ensure all the fire safety requirements are being met. For B&Bs this will almost always be the owner.
What you need to do
The key thing you need in order to comply with the legislation is a Fire Risk Assessment. You can either carry this out yourself, using the government’s 5-point check list as a guide, or pay a private contractor to do this for you. Either way, you should do everything you can to minimise the risks from any potential hazards identified and put together an emergency plan to use in the event of an actual fire.
One of the best ways to demonstrate full compliance is taking a fire awareness training course. This should cover both the theory behind fire safety, allowing you to better identify and avoid hazards, as well as teaching you how to effectively use safety equipment such as extinguishers and fire blankets.
What happens if you get it wrong
The responsibility for enforcing fire safety laws in small businesses lies with local fire and rescue services. It is their job to carry out inspections to determine whether your precautions are sufficient. They will come to your business, look at your Fire Risk Assessment and any action you have taken and then make a decision about whether you are doing enough.
If your assessor is not satisfied, they can present you with an improvement plan detailing the changes you need make, issue an enforcement order if you fail to make those recommended changes and, ultimately, even take you to court in the event of continued non-compliance.
Penalties for failing to meet the minimum legal requirements for fire safety can include fines or a prison sentence. Even minor infractions can result in a fine of up to £5,000, while more serious failures can carry an unlimited fine and up to two years jail time.
For further information check out the government’s advice for people who provide sleeping accommodation and to find out about taking a fire safety training course, use our online contact form or call us on 0117 957 3039.