The LWF Blog

Facilities Management & Fire Safety – Fire Safety Management – Part 1

April 11, 2018 12:55 pm

In LWF’s blog series for those who work in Facilities Management, or who have an interest in or responsibility for fire safety, we talk about practical measures which can be undertaken to ensure your building and its occupants are safe from the effects of fire. In part 1 of Fire Safety Management, we will look at how you should approach managing fire safety.


Although feedback and instructions from third parties such as insurers or enforcing authorities should be taken on board and acted upon, this kind of passive reaction is insufficient when approaching fire safety. Indeed, the addition of fire protection equipment, while useful, will equally not constitute an adequate fire safety plan.


Fire safety must be actively monitored, controlled and managed in order to ensure property and/or life safety. Too commonly, you hear of organisations where the individual held responsible for fire safety was either insufficiently resourced or experienced. A typical example of this is where someone is simply given fire safety as an addition to their daily work on the assumption that they only need spend an hour on it every so often.


The control of fire safety in an organisation is a management responsibility and as such, if a fire disaster were to take place, it would not be ‘Fred from accounts’ (who had been asked to check every so often) who would be held responsible, that responsibility would lie with the most senior officers in the business.


Historically, poor management of fire safety has been shown to be a contributory factor in multiple-death fires, even in those buildings which were designed correctly and had adequate fire safety equipment installed.


Many organisations seem to have an issue knowing quite where the responsibility for fire safety should lie and within whose remit. It may be that some tasks relating to fire safety fall under building management, and others under operations management or building maintenance. It cannot be strongly stated enough that there must be a cohesive and responsible approach to fire safety, with senior management backing in order for there to be no grey area.


For this reason, it is essential that a ‘responsible person’ is named as being the company’s representative in all fire safety issues. This person is not only responsible for any fire safety tasks they are capable of undertaking, but also in coordinating the approach of any other contributing staff members. The ‘responsible person’ is ultimately responsible for providing adequate fire safety standards within the organisation. A failure to do so can lead to criminal conviction.


With that level of responsibility, it is important that the staff member named ‘responsible person’ is of a sufficiently senior level.  Where an under-experienced or qualified member of staff is asked to take on the role and a failure is found, it is likely that the most senior management will be found to have been at fault and a conviction may be sought.


In part 2 of this series, LWF will look at how to define that responsibility for fire safety and what kind of staff member would be appropriate to take on the role. In the meantime, if you have any queries about your own facilities or wish to discuss this blog series, please contact Peter Gyere in the first instance on 0208 668 8663.


Lawrence Webster Forrest is a fire engineering consultancy based in Surrey with over 25 years’ experience, which provides a wide range of consultancy services to professionals involved in the design, development and construction and operation of buildings. 


While care has been taken to ensure that information contained in LWF’s publications is true and correct at the time of publication, changes in circumstances after the time of publication may impact on the accuracy of this information.


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