The LWF Blog

Facilities Management & Fire Safety – Insurers & Property Protection – Part 2

January 3, 2019 12:20 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 have been looking at property protection. In part 1, it was noted that there are no legal requirements to protect property, all legislation on fire precautions and prevention relates to life safety in the UK and Ireland. However, insurers have requirements to protect themselves in the case of a fire, if they are to accept the risk. In part 2, we continue to discuss this distinction.


There have been legal cases in the past that have proven the requirement to protect life, not property. One such case was between a company called City Logistics Ltd and the County Fire Officer in Northampton. The fire and rescue authority had issued a statutory notice requiring the company put sprinklers in their warehouse before a fire certificate could be issued. At Magistrates Court, the decision was upheld, but at Crown Court, it was overturned and the reason was that the company’s policy of evacuating the building and calling the Fire Service met the terms of the Fire Precautions Act (which has since been repealed) as it protected the building occupants. To require the sprinklers would be requiring measures to be taken to protect the property.


The process continued, and the High Court disagreed, citing potential additional danger for the attending firefighters as one of the reasons. However, at the Court of Appeal, the judges found for City Logistics. The consensus was that the Fire Precautions Act was created to ensure safe escape from a building and so a fire fighting measures could only be insisted upon for certification where that measure was required to facilitate escape by building occupants.


In the case of a fire risk assessment, however, the broadest objectives when approaching the task may differ from the absolute requirements of law.


 Protection of life and compliance with current legislation is the first and most important consideration and the most common reason for carrying out a fire risk assessment.


 Protection of property is likely to be next on the list of priorities.


 Business protection – i.e., business continuity is usually an important consideration.


Protection of life should be considered the basis for all fire precautions and fire prevention measures taken in a building or buildings. Further precautions may be taken to protect property and business continuity. Sometimes a business will conduct an assessment to consider only the property and business protection elements in isolation of measures to protect life, which is a legitimate endeavour if the basics to cover life safety are already present.


In part 3 of this series, LWF will continue to look at Fire Safety Objectives. 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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