Sadly, due to the recent tragic events with fire in the London area, fire safety is at the edge of everyone’s mind. When it comes to commercial properties and the Regulatory Reform, there are many obligations in regards to fire safety. Here, Curchod & Co review some of the more common issues in regards to fire safety and some practical solutions for risk assessments and escape routes.
Wherein Does the Duty Lie?
The duties of fire safety lie with the person who is responsible. This may be the employer, or it may be the person who is in control of the property or the property owner.
It may be challenging at best to determine who exactly is the responsible person when it comes to a commercial property. According to the governmental standards, it may be that both the tenant as well as the landlord are held equally responsible, especially if there is an issue in regards to who occupies each portion of the facility. Also, if the landlord were to forfeit or surrender the lease, they would then take back control and thus be the responsible party. If it were a shopping centre, for example, the management company may be the responsible party for the property. The tenants may be responsible for their own specific areas. Therefore, each should understand their own portion of the responsibilities therein and strive to make the proper risk assessments for their specific area.
According to Regulation 9, it is the responsibility of tenants as well as the landlord to carry out risk assessments. Thus, it clearly falls to both parties as to who is required to do a risk assessment.
Issue: It’s not exactly clear what a risk assessment entails.
The assessment will reveal what areas of the property are at risk. While this isn’t an exact science, there are some things to consider given the location and the nature of any property. It can cause issues in the transactions of such property if the tenant and the landlord aren’t sure what the risk assessment should actually entail. Relevant factors must be considered and failure to do so can have a serious delay in the priorities of the property. Additionally, most of the leases require that the tenant is the responsible party for ‘statutory compliance’, so the obligation thus falls to the tenant wherein they may be required to be the one that finds the issues at hand.
What Must Be Done?
There are no specific criteria for finding ‘suitable and sufficient’ risks during the assessment. However, the Government guidelines show the following:
1. Locate fire hazards.
2. Identify who is at risk (personnel).
3. Do an evaluation and remove or reduce the potential risks.
4. Record all findings, and make an emergency plan. Provide training.
5. Update and review this assessment on a regular basis.
6. Compliance is a personal obligation. As the property changes hands, it’s the new tenant’s responsibility to reassess the property. Previous assessments won’t automatically come with the property.
Issue: Alterations to property can require a review of all risk assessments.
Yet there isn’t any specific time frame for such a renewal or reassessment of the property. Material changes also require a new risk assessment.
What to Do?
It’s thus vital to educate yourself regarding the potential triggers for a review of the assessment. Consider all alterations. Even a simple partition may require a new assessment as it may block a previous escape route.
According to Regulation 14, it’s vital to ensure that all escape routes remain clear at all ti