Fire Safety: A Burning Issue for Hotels

There are over 45,000 hotels in the UK and fire safety is of paramount importance, not least because non-compliance with legislation can result in loss of life, loss of revenue, fines and imprisonment. Hotel Industry Magazine invites Fireco Conformance and Regulatory Affairs Manager, Tom Welland, to explain why fire safety remains high up on the hospitality agenda is an industry-wide issue.

From small B&Bs to large hotels, the main legal responsibilities are the same. Hotel owners and managers need to be aware of the Fire Safety Order (FSO); the current law in England and Wales. The FSO nominates one individual as the ‘Responsible Person’ for a building – generally deemed to be the owner, occupier or employer.

Quite often a hotel manager can be the designated Responsible Person without knowing it and without any fire safety knowledge or training. However, just because they are listed as the Responsible Person doesn’t mean they need to know everything about fire safety; someone else can be nominated to be a ‘Competent Person’ for the premises and receive training accordingly.

The ‘Responsible Person’ has a duty to fulfil the requirements of the FSO. Those requirements all stem from having a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment. The hotel manager will need to prove that they have reduced fire risk as far as is reasonably practical and show that they have taken precautions to protect its guests and employees.

Do You Comply?

Non compliance with the FSO can have serious consequences, as one hotel owner recently discovered at his cost. In May 2014, Manjit Takhar, owner of the Bescot Hotel in Walsall, was jailed for 12 months for breaching fire safety regulations. An investigation into the premises revealed the fire exit on the first floor had been blocked by mattresses, in addition the fire alarms were deemed to be faulty. Obstructions were also discovered on the landing and the emergency lighting was inadequate.

Ensuring that means of escape routes are kept clear is one of the most important fire safety measures for a hotel.

Another important measure is to have fire doors fitted with automatic door closers. Recent Fireco research found that 64% of premises visited by the fire service had fire doors wedged open. Installing automatic door retaining devices such as a Dorgard or Freedor will ensure that fire doors close in the event of a fire alarm sounding, protecting those behind it from the dangerous spread of smoke and fire.

Staff training

Providing adequate training for hotel staff on how to identify and report fire risks will give the owner or manager the power to reduce and remove those risks. Training should start as part of an induction, with regular updates from then on.

Top tips:

  • Ensure that the fire risk assessment is kept as a live document, rather than a ‘tick-box’ exercise carried out once a year.
  • Regular checks of the building need to be made, e.g. that fire doors are still closing properly and the means of escape routes are kept clear of any obstacles.
  • Try to spread out fire training across the year. Regular training updates could involve evacuation drills, how to use a fire blanket, fire extinguisher training and how to change the lint filters in tumble dryers.
  • Keep an online diary of fire safety training with a sign-off for employees.
  • Make sure that everyone who comes into contact with the building is also trained in fire risks including agency staff, builders, cleaners and gardeners. They also need to understand the importance of keeping a fire door closed and not wedged open, and looking out for things like damage to fire doors, frayed wiring and blockages to means of escape routes.

Employees need to be made fully aware of the hotel evacuation strategy in order to be able to put this into practice in the event of a fire alarm sounding. The better trained your staff are, the more calm they are likely to be in the event of a fire, which can help save lives.

Ensuring your establishment provides for disabled and hard of hearing guests should also be high on the fire safety agenda. In addition to the FSO, every hotel owner also has a legal responsibility to comply with the Equality Act which replaced the Disability Discrimination Acts 1995 and 2005 (DDA) on October 1st 2010. Systems and/or fire safety products should be installed, such as a Deafgard, to ensure that disabled and hard of hearing guests are made aware of a fire alarm sounding and are able to evacuate the establishment quickly and safely.

The most important piece of advice is to make fire safety a part of everyday life for everyone that comes into contact with the hotel.

  • Doug Spencer

    Just like to say as a Fire Risk Assessor, the biggest problem in hotels is ignorance. People buy a hotel and many other businesses without understanding the laws around them. Fire Risk Assessments have been in place for over 10 years now and still I hear people saying they don’t know about them, don’t need them or the classic, the Fire Brigade do them.
    The Fire & Rescue services DO NOT undertake risk assessments, it is the business owners responsibility to undertake one or better still, employ a specialist like myself to do one with you.

  • Adrian Robinson

    I agree with Doug’s comment in that unfortunately we find all too often many owners still don’t realise they are legally responsible for Fire Safety in their establishments. With others it’s a case of not really having thought it through or having simply done a tick-box exercise in the belief this is sufficient.

    As many will have read in recent times hotel owners are now being closed down and sent to prison for non-compliance with fire safety regulations. Fire safety is a serious business which in most cases requires the assistance of professionals to help conduct a thorough fire safety audit and make recommendations on any issues identified.”

  • simon ince

    There are many many examples of poor fire safety provision in hotels up and down the country. Recently a hotelier in Blackpool received a relatively long custodial sentence for breaching the fire safety order. Awareness is a major issue and that is compounded by a low priority; fire safety comes low on the list of things to do in the day to day running of a hotel. Good management of fire safety in hotels should be the priority after the initial fire risk assessment has been completed and to help hoteliers there is a free guide to best practice fire safety management for hotels; I am surprised it wasn’t highlighted by this article! Its called the MBS methodology and can be downloaded from less

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