fire safety training uk

A History of UK Fire Safety Regulations and Training

Today, fire safety regulations in the UK are thorough and rigorous, stemming from a history shaped by past tragedies and countless legislative reforms. This retrospective will talk you through the historical milestones that have molded the UK’s fire safety landscape, the current training legislation we have, and the importance of such procedures. 

A History of Fire Safety Regulations 

The regulations we have in place today stem from past fires or incidents, and these reforms shape the knowledge and training required by Fire Safety Professionals. Originating in response to the Great Fire of London, predating the formation of the United Kingdom, the first fire prevention act laid the groundwork for subsequent legislation. Since then, numerous acts have been enacted to prioritise fire safety across the country.

The following list is not comprehensive, but outlines notable milestones in fire safety legislation: 

Great Fire of London 1666: 

The aftermath of the great fire spurred the creation of initial UK fire safety regulations, aiming to mitigate the swift propagation of flames in potential future fires. Due to the prevalence of wooden buildings in 17th-century London, King Charles II passed an act introducing building codes to ensure the fire-resistant qualities of structures; buildings were to be made primarily from Stone, with all roads to be widened from then on.

18th and 19th Century Reforms:

As urbanisation accelerated in the 18th and 19th centuries, so too did the need for more robust fire safety measures. The establishment of fire brigades and the enactment of legislation such as the Metropolitan Fire Brigade Act of 1865 marked significant strides in organised firefighting efforts. Regulatory frameworks also emerged to address specific fire hazards, such as the London Cooking Fire Bylaw of 1705, prohibiting open fires in thatched buildings, and the Fires Prevention (Metropolis) Act of 1774 ensuring building exteriors were sufficiently fireproof. 

Factory Acts 1901-1971:

The initial Factories Act of 1901, later expanded upon by the 1937 Factory Act, imposed comprehensive regulations mandating that factories and workshops must provide adequate means of escape in case of severe workplace fires. The devastating fires killing 8 people at Eastwood Mills in 1956 and a club fire in Bolton in 1961 spurred amendments to the Factories Act and alcohol licensing laws respectively.

The Fire Precautions Act of 1971 represented a landmark shift, requiring comprehensive fire safety inspections and certifications for all buildings, irrespective of their date of construction—a pivotal step towards universal fire safety regulation compliance.

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005:

This major change represents a paradigm shift, consolidating and simplifying existing fire safety legislation while emphasising the importance of risk assessment and proactive management. More recently the Fire Safety Act 2021 provided thorough explanations of the parameters that fall under the Fire Safety Order 2005. As we move further into the 21st century, the advent of digital technologies has facilitated more efficient fire safety monitoring and compliance, heralding a new era of data-driven fire prevention strategies.

Current Fire Safety Training Requirements 

The requirements set out by the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order are to ensure workplaces are fully prepared in the event of a fire. It states that each workplace must have a ‘responsible person’ who ensures fire safety regulations are followed, correct training is provided to all employees, and will answer to the law in case of failure.

The responsible person must ensure all employees receive training when–

  1. When first employed
  2. When being exposed to new or increased risks because of a:
    • i) change of responsibilities
    • ii) change of work equipment
    • iii) new technology
    • iv) change of a system of work

The training provided must – 

  1. Include sufficient instruction on appropriate cautions
  2. Be repeated periodically
  3. Be adapted to any changed risks
  4. Be appropriate to risks identified in the risk assessment
  5. Take place during work hours

These are the minimum legal requirements regarding workplace fire safety training in the UK. However, we’d advise further knowledge on topics such as fire extinguisher usage or following effective emergency plans.

fire safety training uk

Importance of Fire Safety Training 

Besides being a legal requirement, fire safety training is essential for personal safety. 2022 saw an increase in UK fire-related fatalities, totalling 275 fatalities. Fires can cause not only death but permanent health ailments. During a fire, toxic fumes and smoke can spread in a fast manner, both of which can cause irreversible lung damage.   

Fire safety training is a critical investment for businesses. On average, each fire incident results in a staggering loss of £657,074, with damage to property, equipment, and documents commonly putting entire businesses to a halt. It is imperative for every business owner to ensure their employees receive comprehensive fire safety training – not only on how to respond in the event of a fire, but also to equip individuals with the knowledge and skills to prevent fires from occurring in the first place.

At 1st Attendance, we provide extensive fire safety training courses at your workplace. Use our cost calculator to get an instant quotation. To find out more get in touch with us today.