Responsibility for fire, health and safety issues rests with the operator of the business.
Since 1 October 2006 it has been necessary for all businesses to comply with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. The Order applies to all non-domestic premises in England and Wales. If you are responsible for business premises, an employer or self-employed with business premises, or responsible for any part of a dwelling used for business purposes, or indeed a contractor with some control over business premises, you must undertake fire risk assessments, keep records of those assessments, carry out regular reviews, and maintain a fire management plan. Records of all assessments and reviews and of the plan are essential. Failure to comply with the regulations or simply failure to keep records could land you with a criminal conviction and a hefty fine.
Recently a holder of a Premises Licence for a Berkshire pub had to pay out nearly £8000 in fines and costs for failing to carry out a fire risk assessment, having no fire alarm system, no fire drill training for staff, and no working emergency lighting.
On 3 June the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) issued its new strategy for the workplace. One of its goals is to help SMEs “understand how to comply with health and safety law in a manner proportionate to the risks posed by their work activities. But their primary role appears to be to investigate accidents and ill health and take enforcement proceedings where appropriate as part of their role to drive down accidents and ill health in the workplace.
Maximum fines for health and safety issues were recently increased to £20000 in the magistrates courts and the higher courts have the power to imprison employers.
But help is at hand. The HSE have announced that from September 2009 they will make available free of charge their publications (over 250) on line. They contain specific industry guidance and codes of practice and safety regulations. Every employer with a workplace should not overlook the importance of health and safety and the consequences of failing to comply with the regulations.
Business Solicitor and Licensing Law Specialist
This blog is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor is it intended to be a complete and authoritative statement of the law, and what we say might be out of date by the time you read it. You should always seek legal advice to confirm whether or how any information in this article applies to your particular situation. We offer a free telephone consultation to discuss your particular circumstances.