Fire Safety

Author:Ms Deborah Spence
Profession:Arthur Cox

The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 2005 (the "2005 Act"), together with the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) Regulations, 2007 (the "2007 Regulations") and the Fire Services Act, 1981 (the "1981 Act") place on employers a number of obligations in respect of fire safety in the workplace.

Legislative Context

The 1981 Act set out the Statutory Framework for the establishment of fire authorities and the organisation of fire services and for fire safety, firefighting, the protection and rescue of persons and property and related matters. It places a general duty on every person having control over a premises to take reasonable measures to guard against the outbreak of fire on the premises, provide reasonable fire safety measures for such premises and prepare and provide appropriate fire safety procedures for ensuring the safety of persons on such premises, ensure that the fire safety measures and procedures are applied at all times, and ensure as far as is reasonably practicable the safety of persons on the premises in the event of an outbreak of fire (section 18, as amended).

It sets out, at section 19, what constitutes a Potentially Dangerous Building. This is any building which would, in the event of fire, be life endangering due to a number of specified conditions. This becomes relevant also for the purposes of enforcement, which will be considered below.

The 2005 Act is a framework piece of legislation, which imposes positive obligations on employers and employees. It obliges employers to plan how to manage fire.

All employers must plan ahead for emergencies or serious and imminent danger (section 11(1)). They must also prepare, and revise as appropriate, adequate plans and procedures to be followed and measures to be taken in the case of an emergency or serious and imminent danger (section 8(2)(j)). In doing so, they must engage a person with expertise in the area to assist with preparing these plans and procedures if they cannot adequately do so themselves (section 8(2)(l)).

All employers should consider fire safety when conducting their risk assessment which should include fire prevention, fire detection and warning, and emergency escape and fire-fighting (section 19).

Consideration must also be given to the safety of persons other than employees within the workplace: for example, contractors, visitors and members of the public (section 12).

These obligations are supplemented by Articles 12 and 13 of the...

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