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Living above a business

Living above a business

If you're responsible for small business premises where people sleep, fire safety law applies to you!

There have been a number of recent fires in Kent in businesses such as fast food outlets, pubs, takeaways, cafes and restaurants where upper floors are being used for sleeping accommodation. These fires often result in significant financial loss, with a high risk of injury and even death. 

It is particularly important to consider and put in place the right fire safety arrangements to protect not only the lives of you, your family, employees and customers, but also your property and your business.

In many cases it has come to light that people are sleeping in rooms and or flats above businesses, often accessed by a single unprotected staircase from the main public or kitchen area of the building, like this one:

Fast food premises diagram
       

Often these exit routes are blocked with combustible materials. Experience has shown that people living on upper floors find it difficult to evacuate quickly and safely in an emergency unless a safe exit route is available.

What must I do?

Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 – makes you responsible for taking steps to protect the people using your premises from the risk of fire.

You must:

  • Carry out a fire risk assessment
  • If necessary, improve your fire safety measures
  • Keep the risks, and your fire safety measures under review

What is a fire risk assessment? 

It is a thorough look at your premises and the people who are likely to use them. It considers the risk of fire breaking out and what measures you need to put in place to prevent it and keep people safe.

What happens if I don’t do a fire risk assessment? 

You are committing an offence and you could be putting people’s lives at risk. We may inspect your premises as part of our responsibility to enforce the law, or a customer or someone working for you may report you to us if they feel at risk.

If we think you need to improve your fire safety, we can give you advice on what measures may be appropriate for you to take and agree a time period for you to make the improvements.

We can also take formal legal enforcement action if you fail to do this, or if we find a serious fire risk that you are not managing we can restrict the use of part or all of your premises and your business may be closed down.

If you live on the premises you may have to find somewhere else to stay. Since the introduction of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 we have restricted the use of a number of takeaway and restaurant premises because they were so unsafe. You may also face a substantial fine and/or imprisonment for breaches of fire safety law.

Reducing the dangers

  • fit an alarm to provide early warning of fire throughout the building
  • keep escape routes clear from combustible material and other obstructions
  • never wedge open fire doors or remove door closing devices (a fire door can only protect you if it is kept closed)
  • protect/separate staircases with fire resisting construction to ensure your exit route is safe

Make sure your family and employees know how to: 

  • get out of the building in the event of fire
  • and call the fire and rescue service

Complete your fire risk assessment

  • STEP 1: Identify fire hazards
  • STEP 2: Identify people at risk
  • STEP 3: Evaluate, remove or reduce and protect from risk
  • STEP 4: Record, plan, inform, instruct and train
  • STEP 5: Review your fire risk assessment regularly

Download this information as a PDF leaflet

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