Sounds familiar? It is true to say that after carrying out a fire-risk assessment it is highly likely that some remedial action is required and some of which will probably incur additional costs. There I’ve said it! Don’t stop reading yet though because if cost reduction is what you’re aiming for then flouting fire-safety legislation is not the answer.
Ask New Look who recently had to pay a whopping £400,000 for fire-safety breaches and £136,000 costs or the Brandon House hotel that paid a mere £200,000.
Those who ignore fire-safety can pay fines at the magistrates’ court of up to £5,000 per offence. Some of these offences can be things like blocked exits which would have incurred zero expense to remedy. Very often the major failings are lack of training, lack of planning and lack of information; all these measures are minimal in terms of capital expenditure.
The costly items are usually poor fire-protection systems: extinguishers, alarms, emergency lights and poor electrical-safety (lack of PAT testing or periodic inspections).
However a fire-risk-assessment should not put you out of business. It is reasonable to phase in remedial action and even if the action required is urgent (such as no working fire alarm) then temporary measures can be put in place (such as instigating regular patrols and / or issuing manual air-horns).
Health and Safety legislation brings just as many potential expenses, new systems and training issues but has much less opposition in terms of capital investment – why is that? A law in place since 1974 has had the time, profile and financial impact to ensure that the vast majority of businesses believe it to be a necessary expense. The key however with both fire safety and health and safety legislation is deciding what is ‘reasonably practical’ in terms of expense, time and effort. This concept is highlighted well in a HSBC business-network blog – ‘Health and safety what is reasonably practicable?’Every business owner should realise that the Fire-Safety-Order, legislation introduced in late 2006, has bedded in and all the relevant stakeholders have become more comfortable with their roles – none more-so than the fire and emergency service. Insurers too are heightening their requirements and can no longer sustain £1.3bn annual fire-loss claims.
As with all safety legislation however surely the final word should not be about expense but common sense good-practice – As a business owner – It’s the right thing to do!