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30 April 2024

Fire safety for charities and not-for-profits

What’s included in this guide:

  • The applicable laws across the UK
  • Key changes brought in by recent legislation
  • Fire hazards
  • Fire risk management
  • Fire scenario case study
  • How Access can help you


Responsible Person: Defined as individuals or entities responsible for ensuring fire safety in non-domestic premises, which include workplaces and non-domestic parts of multi-occupied residential buildings (e.g., communal corridors and stairways).


A guide for persons with duties under fire safety legislation

Check your fire safety responsibilities under Section 156 of the Building Safety Act 2022

fire extinguishers

Applicable laws across the UK

England and Wales: The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 applies in both England and Wales, setting the foundation for fire safety compliance. This is further built on by Section 156 of the Building Safety Act 2022, and for multi-occupancy residential buildings; Fire Safety Act 2021, and Fire Safety Regulations 2022.

Scotland: Scotland’s fire safety legislation is based on Part 3 of the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005, supported by the Fire Safety (Scotland) Regulations 2006.

Northern Ireland: In Northern Ireland, fire safety legislation is governed by Part 3 of the Fire and Rescue Services (Northern Ireland) Order 2006 and the Fire Safety Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2010.

Key changes brought in by recent legislation

Fire Safety Act 2021

The Fire Safety Act 2021 introduced changes that apply to multi-occupied residential buildings in England and Wales. These changes primarily focus on the responsibilities of building owners and managers in such buildings, especially in relation to external wall systems and flat entrance doors. They clarify that these components are part of the building structure’s fire safety.

Fire Safety Regulations 2022

The Fire Safety Regulations 2022, like the Fire Safety Act 2021, apply to multi-occupied residential buildings in England and Wales. These regulations enhance the safety of such buildings, emphasising the importance of fire risk assessments and requiring responsible persons to cooperate and coordinate with others in the same building.

Though most of the changes are for higher-risk buildings above 18m high, there are few areas for other multi-occupied residential buildings. For buildings above 11m, responsible persons must check fire doors regularly and for all multi-occupied residential buildings responsible persons should provide residents with relevant fire safety instructions, which will include instructions on how to report a fire and any other instructions which set out what a resident must do once a fire has occurred, based on the evacuation strategy for the building. Information on the importance of fire doors in fire safety must also be given to residents.

Section 156 of the Building Safety Act 2022

Section 156 of the Building Safety Act 2022 extends fire safety obligations, applying to England and Wales. These changes include stricter requirements for Responsible Persons in multi-occupied residential buildings.

In summary, responsible persons must now:

  • Record the fire risk assessment in full, including all findings.
  • Record the identity of individuals or organisations engaged to undertake or review the fire risk assessment and share this information.
  • Record their fire safety arrangements and demonstrate how fire safety is managed on their premises.
  • Record and update their contact information, including a UK-based address, and share this information with others.
  • Take steps to identify and cooperate with other responsible persons in the same premises.
  • Share relevant fire safety information with incoming responsible persons in case of changes in ownership or responsibility.

Responsible persons in multi-occupied residential buildings must also:

  • Ensure residents receive information about identified fire risks, fire safety measures, contact information of the responsible person, and more from the responsible person.

Responsible persons in higher-risk residential buildings must also:

  • Cooperate with Accountable Persons to facilitate a whole-building approach to fire safety. This includes sharing information like the fire risk assessment to maintain the highest level of safety in these buildings.

Other changes that also apply:

  • Increased fines for certain offences under the Fire Safety Order.
  • Strengthened status of guidance issued under Article 50 of the Fire Safety Order, making it admissible in court proceedings to establish compliance or breach.

For further detail on the changes brought in by Section 156 of the Building Safety Act 2022, view the government guidance here.

people talking

Fire hazards

A fire in the workplace presents huge risks to property and the health of your employees, volunteers and the public. It can physically damage or destroy buildings, contents and equipment. It can also be responsible for serious injuries and fatalities. Common injuries include burns, respiratory damage from smoke inhalation, oxygen depletion and trauma (such as broken bones) from escape attempts. Electrical faults, open flames, heating equipment, and cooking appliances are common causes of fires. It’s crucial to be aware of potential ignition sources and flammable materials.

Fires need three things to start:

  • A source of ignition (heat). Sources of ignition include heaters, lighting, naked flames, electrical equipment, smokers’ materials (cigarettes, matches, etc), and anything else that can get very hot or cause sparks.
  • A source of fuel (something that burns). Sources of fuel include wood, paper, plastic, rubber, foam, loose packaging materials, waste rubbish and furniture.
  • Oxygen. Air is the primary source of oxygen. Other sources include chemicals that contain oxidising agents and oxygen supplies from cylinder storage and piped systems.

A few examples of potential fire hazards include:

  • Faulty electrical equipment, such as old appliances or frayed cords.
  • Overloaded power sockets in offices, kitchens, or common areas.
  • Poorly maintained heating systems and boilers.
  • Storing flammable materials, like paper or cleaning supplies, near heat sources.

fire escape

Fire risk management

Organisations (whether building owners or occupiers) must carry out a fire safety risk assessment and keep it up to date. Based on the findings of the assessment, employers need to ensure that adequate and appropriate fire safety measures are in place to minimise the risk of injury or loss of life in the event of a fire.

To help prevent fire in the workplace, your risk assessment should identify what could cause a fire to start—sources of ignition and substances that burn—and the people who may be at risk, such as staff, volunteers, and visitors. It should also identify risks to young persons and address the use of dangerous substances that can result in fires or explosions.

Once you identify the risks, you can take appropriate action to control them. Consider whether you can avoid them altogether or, if not possible, how you can reduce risks and manage them. Consider how you will protect others if there is a fire.

fire alarm

  • Carry out a fire safety risk assessment and record findings in full.
  • Develop and document fire safety arrangements, which can include fire safety policy, procedures, evacuation plans, and testing and maintenance of fire protection equipment and systems.
  • Share information with building users about the fire safety arrangements and evacuation measures. Provide up-to-date contact information with a UK-based address.
  • Keep sources of ignition and flammable substances apart.
  • Avoid accidental fires. For instance, make sure heaters aren’t knocked over.
  • Ensure good housekeeping at all times, such as avoiding the build-up of rubbish that could burn.
  • Determine how you can detect fires and warn people quickly if they start, such as by installing smoke alarms and fire alarms or bells.
  • Have the correct equipment for putting a fire out quickly. For example, foam extinguishers for flammable liquids and CO2 extinguishers for electrical equipment.
  • Always keep fire exits, escape routes and assembly points clearly signposted and unobstructed.
  • Ensure your workers receive appropriate training on procedures they need to follow, including fire drills.
  • Coordinate and cooperate with other responsible people/organisations, for example, in leased office buildings.
  • For multi-occupancy buildings, follow the additional responsibilities and guidance for Responsible/Accountable Persons.
  • Review and update your risk assessment regularly. Record the identity of individuals or organisations engaged to undertake or review the fire risk assessment and share this information. Moreover, share details with any incoming Responsible Persons in case of changes in ownership or responsibility.

Fire scenario case study

A community centre regularly puts waste by the back door of their building. Occasionally people use the same area for a cigarette break. One week there was a pile of rubbish left for several days. A discarded cigarette butt caused it to catch fire. By the time the fire was spotted and put out, it had caused substantial damage to the rear of the centre.

There was a significant cost in repairing the damage. This fire could have been easily prevented if the centre had completed a fire risk assessment and taken simple steps to control the risks.

two people talking

How Access can help you

Access is a leading broker for the not-for-profit sector. Charity is at the heart of what we do, from our vision and internal culture to the third-sector organisations we partner with. Over 16,000 charities, community groups and social enterprises trust us to advise on and arrange their insurance each year.

As an independent Chartered Insurance Broker, we recommend the most suitable cover for your risks to protect you properly. We work in your interests rather than those of insurers. We compare multiple insurers on your behalf, and you can be confident that we provide you with a competitive quote. We will support you throughout your policy, whether making changes or assisting you when making a claim.

Get a quote or speak to a charity-specialist broker today

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