The LWF Blog

Fire Safety for Facilities Management Personnel-Fire Safety Legislation Part 1

July 8, 2019 11:12 am
Lawrence Webster Forrest (LWF) is a specialist fire engineering and fire risk management consultancy whose aim is to give information on best practice of fire safety for facilities management personnel through this blog series. In part 1, we begin with an overview of the history of fire safety legislation.
While it is true that most fire safety legislation is written with the aim of averting fires, it is also the case that much of it has been prepared and enacted as a result of fire disasters which have already happened.
The Factories Act of 1961 (which remains current, but is largely superseded by more recent health and safety legislation) came to pass largely as the result of a fire at Eastwood Mills, Keighley in 1956. The fire occurred when a blowtorch was used to install hot water pipes on the ground floor. Although attended by 15 fire crews, the firefighters were unable to subdue the blaze which razed the building to the ground and resulted in the deaths of 8 people working inside the building.
The subsequent inquiry led to 40,000 factories being surveyed across the country and a 1959 amendment to the Factories Act 1937 stated unequivocally that factories must be fitted with fire alarms and provide an adequate means of escape. The Act also meant that Fire Brigades had the power to inspect factories for health and safety. The Factories Act was re-written in 1961 to consolidate the original document with the amendments.
In 1960, a fire took place at a department store in Liverpool named Hendersons. The fire started as a result of arcing on an armoured steel electrical cable. The store was open with hundreds of staff and customers inside and although it was again attended by fire crews, the blaze was so intense that the fire personnel were driven out of the building as the structure became untenable. Although many lives were saved, 11 people lost their lives.
Legislatory changes after the event led to the passing of the Offices, Shops and Railway Premises Act 1963 the aim of which was to extend the protection for factory workers given in the Factories Act of 1961 to other places of employment.
Legislatory responses to fire disasters can be noted throughout the decades. The Fire Precautions Act 1971 was said to be enacted due to the fire at the Rose and Crown Hotel in Saffron Walden in 1969, in which 11 people died. In the 1980s, the Bradford Football Stadium disaster in 1985 led to the Fire Safety and Safety of Places of Sport Act 1987. Also in 1987, the fire at King’s Cross underground station gave rise to the 1989 Fire Precautions (Sub-surface Railway Stations) Regulations.
In part 2 of this series, LWF will continue looking at the history of fire safety legislation. 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 0800 410 1130.
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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