Residential care homes are particularly vulnerable to injury and loss of life in the event of a fire due to a high density of at-risk occupants, including those with mobility issues. According to official national statistics, 498 care homes experienced a primary fire in 2022/23, 40% of which were caused by cooking appliances. To meet fire safety regulations, UK care homes must have specific procedures and processes in place which help to mitigate the risk of fire and reduce loss of life or injury in the event of an incident.
Our care home compliance experts have put together the below guide to help you ensure that your residents stay safe, and that your care home complies with fire safety laws.
What are the legal obligations for care homes?
In a report by The Guardian, it was determined that 57% of 177 London care homes failed a fire safety inspection in 2018. Fire risk assessments are a legal obligation and must be undertaken each year to ensure that your care home meets the requirements of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order of 2005 is comprehensive legislation that encompasses fire safety regulations in care homes. It includes provisions for conducting fire risk assessments, methods for fire detection, strategies for minimising fire hazards, and requirements for staff training.
The order also designates individuals responsible for fire safety within care homes, such as registered managers, risk assessors, and fire alarm technicians. Local fire services are authorised to conduct regular inspections in accordance with this order. These inspections serve to ensure that care homes are fully compliant with fire safety laws. In cases of violation, care homes may face fines, loss of their operating licence, or even imprisonment for owners, directors, or senior management team.
What is a fire risk assessment?
To comply with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, care home managers (or the designated responsible person) must complete a fire risk assessment. This means that the following must be reviewed on an annual basis:
• Your current fire prevention measures (particularly in relation to storage, smoking, flammable/combustible substances, machinery and equipment and general housekeeping).
• How well you could communicate to those onsite in the event of a fire (fire detection systems, alarms, signage, emergency lighting).
• Your escape routes – are there clear escape paths? Do you complete regular fire drills? Do you have any vulnerable residents with mobility issues?
• How well could you confine and/or suppress a fire?
• The level of awareness and training among your staff in terms of what to do in the event of a fire (fire training, fire drills, fire tests etc).
Every item mentioned above should be assessed and categorised according to the level of risk it presents. When the risk identified in any particular area is deemed unacceptably high, it is imperative to establish a detailed action plan designed to mitigate and manage that risk. This plan should include clear timelines for implementation and designate specific individuals responsible for its execution. In this process, you should also consider ongoing maintenance needs, as well as any requirements for future training. It is essential to document all findings and keep these records for the purpose of inspection and review.
Fire Safety Checklist
Compliance with fire safety laws ensures that fire safety measures, such as fire alarm systems and evacuation plans, are in place and functional. This enables a more efficient response from emergency services, potentially minimising the impact of a fire.
This basic checklist will help you ensure that you are covering the main obligations of fire safety regulations for care homes in the UK:
• Conduct a fire risk assessment
• Install and service fire detection systems – fire alarms and extinguishers
• Create a fire evacuation plan specific to your premises, considering individual risk assessments and the layout of your care home
• Conduct fire awareness and fire warden training
• Install fire safety signage and emergency lighting
• Ensure that you have done everything to mitigate the risk of fire
• Record all your findings
To ensure that your care home is compliant with fire safety regulations, your fire risk assessment must be conducted by someone with adequate knowledge of fire safety. Your fire detection systems and equipment must also be installed by a competent person.
Our team of expert care consultants is committed to helping care homes improve. Whether it’s supporting care management teams in implementing new procedures for their staff, creating a better quality of care for residents, providing strategic guidance to care home providers and owners, or identifying innovative solutions that can help to improve care home commercials, we can help.
If you are a care home manager or provider who needs expert advice on how to comply with fire safety regulations, or other health and safety recommendations, get in touch with our friendly team today, or read our previous insights.