Monthly H&S Review: January 2022 - Fire Safety | QCS

Monthly H&S Review: January 2022 – Fire Safety

Dementia Care
February 7, 2022

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We enter a new year, 2022, again the COVID pandemic is still in the headlines. The UK Government has announced that people are no longer asked to work from home and from 27th January face coverings and the NHS COVID Pass will no longer be required by law (there is separate guidance for those who live in Wales and Scotland). Even with the removal of these measures you must still control the risks from Coronavirus and review and update your Coronavirus risk assessment. The controls in the workplace remain unchanged and you should ensure that you have:

  • Adequate ventilation
  • Good hand hygiene measures
  • Sufficient cleaning

The important part is to communicate and consult your workforce on your Coronavirus risk assessment and the controls you have in place to help reduce the risk.

This, however, is not the topic that I want to talk about this month. As a health and safety practitioner I receive regular alerts on health and safety legislation updates and health and safety prosecutions that have been carried out, amongst many other alerts and updates. One such alert was that a care home business run by a private health care provider was fined £1.04 million after a resident died in a fire while smoking at one of its care homes. This amount of money is not pocket money, it is a very significant amount.

The overriding piece of legislation in relation to fire safety is the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 or RR(FS)O for short. As an operator of services in the care sector or a care home owner the RR(FS)O places several duties on the Responsible Person. This is typically the person who controls or owns the business or premises. For most workplaces the responsible person will be the employer, they will continue to be responsible for the welfare and safety of their employees, but it can also be landlords or occupiers. The responsible person must:

  • Ensure compliance with the RR(FS)O
  • Ensure a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment has been carried out
  • Implement any protective or preventative measures as required to ensure the safety of all relevant persons
  • Appoint competent persons to assist them in implementing the measures as required

You will see from above the term relevant person, and this is any person other than an employee lawfully on the premises that can be affected by an incident arising in the premises.

In the case detailed at the beginning of this blog, the deceased died in a fire whilst they were smoking in a shelter in the care home garden unsupervised. The investigation found that although a smoking risk assessment had been carried out for the individual concerned, it did not assess their use of emollient creams. Emollient creams can be flammable if they are left to build up over time on skin, clothes and bedding, for example.

The care home owner was prosecuted under article 11(1) of the RR(FS)O. This article relates to the management of fire safety arrangements. It states:

“The responsible person must make and give effect to such arrangements as are
appropriate, having regard to the size of his undertaking and the nature of its activities, for the effective planning, organisation, control, monitoring and review of the preventive and protective measures.”

In simple terms it is saying the responsible person must put in place and make arrangements for the planning, organising, controlling, monitoring and reviewing of the preventative and protective measures.

In our case study the care home owner accepted it had failed to:

  • Ensure staff understood risks from the use of emollient creams
  • Warn residents using paraffin-based products not to smoke, or require precautions to be taken such as the use of a smock or apron
  • Instruct staff not to leave a resident using paraffin-based products smoking unsupervised
  • Carry out an individual smoking risk assessment of the residents as normal with the control measures in place

So, the learnings from this tragic case are that anyone who has a legal responsibility for the safety of a building, whether that be an employer, a care home provider, or a landlord you need to make sure that you have a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment and that arrangements are in place for all the activities under your undertaking. The preventative and protective control measures you implement must be planned, organised controlled, monitored and reviewed to ensure they remain valid.


Employment Law Specialists


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