Read Dr Jim Glockling's latest blog post here: ‘Mind the [responsibility] Gap’ – the growing risk of fire in an under-regulated built environment
Fire continues to be one of the greatest threats to UK homes and businesses, costing an estimated £5 billion in damage annually. Worryingly, recent figures show there was a 15% increase in the number of people who died during 2015/2016 as a result of fires.
UK businesses typically believe that the likelihood that they’ll experience a fire is low and underestimate the short to medium term impact a fire would have on their business. Many instead spend time worrying about the threat of loss or damage to their property through theft, with issues around workplace safety confined to staff injury or electrical faults.
More worrying however is that business owners will look to Government regulations and guidance to protect their property and employees. Not many are aware that the last local Fire Act was scrapped in April 2015, removing the final legal provision for property protection. With the Government’s focus firmly on ‘evacuation before collapse’, building regulations now provide little or no protection for property for business owners. With a lack of knowledge of building regulations and fire legislation among SME’s, many UK businesses are at risk of falling through the regulatory ‘gap’ as many do not recognise the important role they have in protecting their own property against fire.
Research carried out by YouGov for the Business Sprinkler Alliance found that almost 70% of business decision makers believe that building regulations adequately protect their business’ property against fire. This is despite a significant number of businesses (over one in ten) having experienced a large fire on their premises. (2016 Business Sprinkler Alliance YouGov Research into business perception of fire)
The danger of fire and resulting property damage to businesses (and also danger presented to employees) is increasing as we move towards a shared economy with companies like Airbnb emerging. Many tourists visiting the UK are unware that fire regulations do not protect them when they stay in an unregulated hospitality environment; Airbnb hosts seem to be unaware of their legal duties, and the fire regulations that apply to the hotels and guesthouses in the established hospitality do not seem to be as rigorously policed.
In order to increase awareness of the risk that fire poses among businesses, the Fire Protection Association has launched a Property Protection Portal. This portal utilises ‘big-data’ and statistical sources to allow all businesses access to intelligently generated risk reports on any UK postcode and business type. The bespoke risk reports as generated by the portal will help to revolutionise the UK’s approach to the provision of business continuity and resilience advice for all risks, including fire. Please find more details here.
Initiatives such as the Property Protection Portal are essential tools in combatting the general complacency that exists in the business community, but it is clear that fire regulation and guidance needs to be reviewed urgently to ensure that it protects businesses and consumers as it is expected to, particularly as new sectors emerge.