The Importance of Fire Safety

Fire safety is a significant concern for every responsible business owner, prompted not just by legal obligations but also by the well-being of employees and visitors and the overall safety of the premises. An awareness of the origins of fire safety laws and compliance with the latest regulations are crucial in facilitating a secure environment.

A brief history of fire safety laws

The inception of fire safety laws can be traced back to the 19th century, with the Petroleum Acts 1862 to 1881 and the Explosives Act 1875. Over time, these regulations evolved to include building bylaws, the Fire Services Act 1947, and the Factories Act 1961.

In recent times, the Fire Safety Order is the primary fire safety legislation in England and Wales, and it applies to all non-domestic premises and communal parts of residential buildings. It places a duty on the Responsible Persons to manage the risk of fire to ensure that the people who use their building are safe.

Following the Grenfell Tower fire, the government committed to reforming building safety introduced new legislation and amended the new Fire Safety Order in support of this.

In 2022 the Fire Safety Act clarified that external walls and flat entrance doors are within the scope of fire safety legislation.

In January 2023, the Fire Safety (England) Regulations introduced new requirements for residential buildings, intending to protect both residents and responding firefighters.

The Building Safety Act provides a framework for much wider reform and, in England, has established the role of the Accountable Person who will have overall responsibility for safety in higher-risk residential premises.

From 1st October 2023, Section 156 of Building Safety Act took effect, which strengthened fire safety in all fire safety order-regulated premises.

Who is the 'responsible person'?

In England and Wales, the individual with principal responsibility for fire safety is known as the 'responsible person.' Scotland and Northern Ireland refer to them as the 'person with duties under section/article.' Effective fire safety hinges on responsible and competent individuals who self-impose risk assessment techniques and engage competent staff rather than waiting for directives from law enforcement.

Article 3 of the Fire Safety Order explains the meaning of the Responsible Person, stating that they are employers, those in control of premises or building owners. 

The importance of fire risk assessments (FRAs)

Fire risk assessments have always been a legal requirement, however previously it was only a requirement for non-domestic premises to document a fire risk assessment if they had five or more employees, and there was only a requirement to document the significant findings of this assessment. From the 1st of October 2023, it became a requirement to record your fire risk assessment in full regardless of the building type, or size of your business. It is also now a requirement to identify who is involved in completing your fire risk assessment and to ensure that they are competent to do so.

If there is more than one Responsible Person within a premises, they must all ensure that they are undertaking FRAs for the areas within the building under their control and are communicating the findings accordingly. 

Should you not have the competencies to carry out a full fire risk assessment in-house, you may employ the likes of Stallard Kane to undertake this on your behalf. Where this is the case, you should make available as much information as possible about fire safety on your premises and allow access to all areas of the building that are under your control. 

If you employ a fire risk assessor to assist you in completing a fire risk assessment, you should record their name, and where applicable, their organisation name. This will ensure there is a clear record for enforcing authorities as to who completed the assessment and will enable you to share this information with both residents (where applicable) and any incoming Responsible Person after you. You are responsible for ensuring that your fire risk assessment is suitable and sufficient and if you employ someone to do this for you, we recommend that you ensure they are competent to do so.

Legal responsibilities

Employers must fulfil specific legal responsibilities to ensure fire safety within their premises.

Nominating a competent person

The responsible person must nominate a competent person(s) to conduct the Fire Risk Assessment.

Providing a means of escape 

Key aspects of providing a safe means of escape include planning and communicating clear escape routes, ensuring they are unobstructed and protecting them with fire separation and doors. Clear signage, lighting, and assembly points are essential components.

Providing a means of warning

Establishing an effective warning system is critical. This may involve temporary or permanent fire alarms, klaxons, air horns, or whistles tailored to the size and complexity of the site.

Providing a means of fighting fire

Fire extinguishers should be strategically placed and suitable for potential fire types. Designated individuals should be trained in their usage.

Key points to remember:

  • Fire safety laws are integral to our legal framework.
  • The responsible person cannot delegate legal culpability for fire safety.
  • A current, suitable, and sufficient fire risk assessment is a necessity.
  • A fire safety plan is a legal requirement.

Your partner in fire safety

We offer comprehensive services to assist businesses in adhering to fire safety regulations. From Fire Risk Assessments to Fire Extinguisher Servicing, Fire Alarm System Services, Emergency Lighting Checks and Fire Door Audits, we help ensure your premises are safe and compliant. 

Contact the team at for a no-obligation quote or advice. 

About the author

This article is provided by our sister company, Stallard Kane, a specialist risk management service provider offering expert advice and solutions in Health and Safety, HR, Risk Solutions and Training. This article is for general guidance only and aims to provide general information on a relevant topic in a concise form. This article should not be regarded as advice in relation to a particular circumstance. Action should not be taken without obtaining specific advice.

If you want a truly personalised service, contact your usual Towergate advisor today who can put you in touch with Stallard Kane’s HR Team to discuss your requirements – call 01427 420 403 or email, and #oneoftheteam will be happy to help.