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Fire safety

IOSH policy position

Fire poses significant risks to the users of buildings, meaning it’s crucial that fire-safety measures are robust and focused on protecting people. Here is the IOSH view on it.

What’s the issue?

Authorities, regulators, construction companies, building owners and employers are central to overseeing the safety and performance of all buildings, ensuring that any building and fire safety risks are managed in a manner that safeguards workers, users, occupants, and the public.

Fire and building safety regulatory frameworks are important for ensuring buildings are constructed and operated in compliance with existing national fire and general building safety laws and regulations (where they’re in place). They are also key to enforcing (where regulators are in place) competencies and effective management systems consistent with international labour, fire and building standards.

How do we see it?

In the aftermath of recent major disasters, it is clear that building and fire safety is a significant area of concern for governments, investors, the infrastructure and estate (or facilities) management sector, construction companies, and users and occupants.

IOSH believes prevention is the first line of defence for fire safety and that this begins at building-design stage. This should be supported by a more stringent regulatory regime that covers the design, construction, use, maintenance, and end-of-life of buildings. IOSH would also like to see improved practices on the materials used at the construction stage, for example in external walls and cladding, as well as the use of fire doors and sprinklers.

Robust management processes are also crucial. These should include having roles and responsibilities involving competent people for workplaces and buildings and taking a risk-based approach to prevention and control measures through the assessment of risk. Emergency and evacuation plans should be in place which are communicated, tested, practiced regularly, and understood.

  • Take a proactive approach on laws, regulations, and standards to ensure fire safety prevention and protective measures are in place.
  • Ensure there is provision for the enforcement and inspection of fire safety regulations.
  • Have a regulatory regime in place to ensure safety-in-design and safe use and occupancy.
  • Collaborate towards the integration of international standards and best practices.
  • Ensure management systems and processes are in place for fire safety and emergency preparedness and response. This should include clearly defined roles and responsibilities involving competent people, risk assessments with preventative and protective control measures, and emergency evacuation plans which are communicated, tested, practiced regularly, and understood.
  • Encourage the adoption of new technologies and innovations in fire safety and building design.
  • Be aware of legal requirements in place for fire safety, champion fire safety and advise duty holders of their responsibilities.
  • Engage in community engagement and public education on fire safety awareness initiatives, emphasising the role of individuals and users in preventing fires and ensuring their own safety.
  • Ensure you keep up to date with technology advancements and the impact these have on fire safety.

This policy position represents IOSH's view as of April 2024 based on the best evidence available to us. We will review it periodically and reserve the right to change and update it drawing on new information.