Under section 18(2) of the Fire Services Acts 1981 and 2003, responsibility for fire safety in buildings of all kinds (other than dwellings) is placed on the 'person having control' of each building, for example a Management Company in an apartment complex.
Inspections of buildings may be undertaken for many reasons and by many parties. Any member of the public who is concerned about fire safety in a building should contact the person having control of the building in the first instance and their local Fire Service if the concerns remain unresolved.
Local authority staff, including fire services staff, have powers of inspection, and where necessary enforcement, under the Building Control Act 1990 and the Fire Services Acts 1981 and 2003 and may undertake different forms of inspection for different purposes specified in the legislation referred to. Typically, in carrying out inspections under the Fire Services Act some or all of the following aspects will be reviewed:
- The passive or inbuilt fire safety features in a building, such as the layout and escape routes from the building and the construction of the building; the required passive fire safety features relating to the use of the building and the scale and occupancy. These features are generally set out in relevant guidance documents and codes of practice rather than in specific legislation or regulation;
- The active fire safety features, such as fire detection and alarm systems, which alert persons on the premises to the danger of fire and enable them to use the means of escape;
- The management of the building, including management of fire safety, to prevent fires occurring in the first place and to manage building services and fire safety to ensure that safety is not compromised.
Guidance documents and codes of practice for various sectors set out generic fire safety management requirements. This generally includes dealing with issues such as assignment of staff responsibilities, providing information on fire safety in the premises, training staff for those responsibilities, putting management/ oversight arrangements in place, holding evacuation drills/ reviewing incidents to practice/ learn fire safety, maintaining a fire safety register in respect of the premises etc.
A fire authority may require a 'person having control' over a building, or an owner or occupier of such a building, to carry out a fire safety assessment of such building and to notify the fire authority of such assessment. In such instances, the 'person having control' over a building may engage professional advisors to carry out these inspections and to assist with discharging their statutory duties; however, ultimate responsibility for fire safety in the building remains with the 'person having control'.