Care Operators: The Fire Safety Bill & Other Developments Webinar: Watch on Demand

Insight

Published

19 March 2021

Our recent webinar focusses on the Fire Safety Bill and other developments in fire safety that could have an impact on your Care operation. 

The consequences of fire in a care setting can be catastrophic. In addition to the potential human cost, the reputational damage and financial implications can be crippling, with large fines and custodial sentences for those falling foul of the law. 

David Taylor, Divisional Director of Howden Care Division is joined by Will White, Head of Health & Safety Operations at AHR Consultants - our Health & Safety Partner, and Robert Starr, Director at Howes Percival LLP and leading expert in health & safety cases with a particular specialism in fire safety matters. 

Agenda of discussion topics:

  • Overview of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (The FSO)
  • The Resposible Person and other duty-holders
  • Fire Risk Assessments and Assessors 
  • Enforcement
  • The Fire Safety Bill and other developments

 

Questions and Answers

Please see below the recording, and answers to questions raised during the session.

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Q. Does the FSO apply to domiciliary care?

Rob says: No – the FSO does not apply to fire precautions within a domestic dwelling other than measures inside (such as smoke/heat detectors) which are there to protect relevant persons on the premises but outside the dwelling. For example, other residents within a housing scheme. The FSO does not apply within houses and bungalows (for example) within which you are providing domiciliary care.  However, be mindful that there may still be a requirement to assess risks within a dwelling where regulated care services are provided. Specifically, Regulation 12 of the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations 2014, requires an assessment of risk in provision of care or treatment including that the premises are safe and used in a safe way.

Q. I am opening a care home for four individuals with four bedrooms, it’s a domestic dwelling semi-detached house. I have installed fire check doors, interlinking smoke/heat detection alarms, fire extinguishers for electric and fabric materials, on all levels and fire blanket extinguisher in the kitchen. I am about to write a risk assessment with an evacuation plan, could you tell anything to help?

Will says: Excellent to see that you have established some great control measures to mitigate your fire risk. The challenge from the Fire Authority would be, are you competent to write the (fire) risk assessment? Do you have the necessary experience of carrying out (fire) risk assessments backed up by formal enhanced qualifications (NEBOSH Fire Safety and Risk Management, for example) and do you have an in depth knowledge of the RRFSO, British Standards and Government Guidance documents? If not, then you would not be deemed competent and should be ensuring that you enlist the services of someone else to carry out the (fire) risk assessment on your behalf. There are so many considerations including ignition sources, combustible materials, the physical and mental capabilities of the individuals to react to a fire situation, escape routes, travel distances, maintenance records, safety checks, emergency lighting, and signage – not to mention many others. We would encourage you to get in contact with the team AHR Consultants to discuss further.

Q. Undertaking full fire evacuations is difficult within the sector, especially given that there is an expectation to evacuate a zone within 2.5 minutes. Manual handling would not be as per risk assessments given the urgency of the situation. Is it therefore acceptable to use staff as ‘residents’ to complete mock scenarios. Some fire officers insist that it should include all those residing in the property which would be very distressing.

Will says: It is acceptable to use staff as ‘residents’ to complete mock scenarios to demonstrate that you can safely evacuate your largest bedroom compartment (or one with the highest residential needs) with the lowest amount of staff (typically night shift). If Fire Officers insist on you using actual residents in this evacuation assessments then this would be an unreasonable request and something we would support out clients with to appropriately challenge the FRS on this insistence as doing so could cause unnecessary stress and potentially injury to your residents. Good people moving and handling techniques should still be adopted but the use of a hoist and sling may not be time appropriate in an emergency situation therefore utilizing other equipment such as wheelchairs and evacuation mattress/ski sheets would be suitable alternatives. The 2.5 minute desired evacuation time is not reasonable and instead should be seen as a starting point. Many factors would need to be considered however, in general, you should be aiming for no more than 10 minutes for a bedroom compartment.

Q. Will the Building Safety Bill have any impact on the Care Sector?

Rob says: The Building Safety Bill (BSB) could supply content for multiple webinars so it’s a difficult question to answer in a paragraph. The BSB is a lengthy piece of draft legislation and, in my view, it may be some time before all of the text is approved. However, at this time, the focus of the substantive parts of the BSB is on “higher risk” buildings which, as proposed, is a multi-occupancy residential building meeting a height condition of 18 metres or comprising at least six storeys. Residential care homes are specifically excluded from the definition of residential accommodation.  As such, there is the possibility that some independent living or sheltered schemes may fall within scope of the BSB but it is likely to have a much greater impact in the housing sector. Care operators who have premises meeting the height condition would be well advised to familiarise themselves with Part 4, which sets out the requirements for buildings in occupation.

18 March 2021 update (hot off the press) – Further to the webinar held on the 17 March 2021, the government published its response to the fire safety consultation launched in October 2020. It proposes to amend some parts of the FSO through the BSB once published. This will include measures on fire assessor competence, record keeping, identification of duty holders (including contact information) in writing and to other duty holders for premises. Other proposals, such as charging, will need further policy considerations.

Q. Is there any directors liability for fire offences?

Rob says: Yes – for offences committed by a corporate body, both it and the individual officers of that body may be held to account. The provisions are set out in Article 32(8) of the FSO which states “where an offence…by a body corporate has been committed with the consent or connivance of, or be attributable to any neglect on the part of, any director, manager, secretary or other similar officer of the body corporate….he as well as the body corporate is guilty of that offence.”  Fire Services will be more inclined to focus on the actions of the Responsible Person under Article 3 FSO (or Article 5(3) duty-holders) rather than individuals. However, Article 32(8) is a useful tool where the corporate offender becomes insolvent and the Fire Service wants to ensure that offending officers are held to account.

Q. Given the level of risk involved with care homes, would it be considered best practice to use a fire risk assessor who is accredited by a third party certification body (e.g.  BAFE, IFE, etc.)? DO you think the FRS would take issue with a medium/large home not using an accredited assessor?

Will says: It would be considered best practice for a fire risk assessor to be third party accredited to carry out fire risk assessments for any premises however there are many accreditation companies out there and these alone do not mean that someone is competent. The FRS would not take issue with an FRA carried out by a non-accredited assessor so long as it was deemed suitable and sufficient, and this would involve ensuring the assessor was competent. As mentioned above, and on the webinar, to be deemed competent the assessor would need to be able to demonstrate they had the necessary training and experience or knowledge to carry out the FRA and you, as the client, would need to evidence that you carried out suitable checks to ensure that the assessor was competent prior to giving them the contract to carry out the work. 

About AHR Consultants

AHR Consultants specialise in delivering peace of mind to our healthcare clients with cost effective and protective compliance solutions in the marketplace, including:

- Fire Risk Assessments

- Fire Evacuation Plans

- Practical Fire Safety Training; use of fire evacuation aids, use of fire extinguishers

- Carrying out fire drills including: use of fire alarm panel, understanding zone chart

- Evacuation strategies including progressive horizontal evacuation

- Compliance Audits

- Policy, procedure and risk assessment creation and review

- Other training including First Aid, Legionella, Manual Handling and many others

As the trusted Safety Partner for Howden Health & Care, AHR Consultants work to implement systems and procedures that will provide defensibility for their clients against enforcement authorities’ prosecutions or employee liability claims.

To this end their Health & Safety Management systems are signed off by our Business Defence lawyers at Howes Percival to confirm, in their legal opinion, that the system enhances defence against claims that the client failed in their duty of care, providing peace of mind to you and your service users.

If you would like any further information on our services including conducting an independent and objective audit/gap analysis of your premises and systems then please contact AHR Consultants at [email protected] or 0300 303 4401.