Fire Safety Enforcement

Local authorities may take action against an owner or occupier of buildings or land that are potentially dangerous or may cause a risk in the event of a fire.

Part III of the Fire Services Acts, 1981 and 2003 sets out responsibilities and obligations in relation to fire safety in buildings. Section 18 of the Fire Services Acts assigns responsibility for fire safety to the “person having control” of the premises and also imposes an obligation on those on the premises to avoid endangering others through their actions.

Fire safety in buildings is generally seen as a function of four aspects:

  • the passive or inbuilt fire safety features in a building, such as the layout and fire resisting construction of the building including the escape routes which enable persons to leave the building safely (referred to as ‘means of escape’); the passive fire safety features appropriate for any given building relate to the use of that building and the scale and occupancy and are set out in relevant guidance documents and codes of practice;
  • the active fire safety features, such as fire detection and alarm systems; the requirements for active features also relate to the use and nature of the building and are set out in guidance and codes of practice.
  • the management of the building, including management of fire safety to prevent fires occurring in the first place and ensure that building services and fire safety are managed to ensure that safety is not compromised and maintaining appropriate record (as in a Fire Safety Register). Again, guidance documents and codes of practice for various sectors set out generic fire safety management requirements; and
  • behaviour of persons in the building who, either through their actions or omission may threaten their own safety and the safety of others in the building.

Part III of the Fire Services Acts also sets out powers of inspection and enforcement which are given to local authorities in their roles as fire authorities.

Also, legislation in the form of the Building Control Acts 1990 to 2014 regulates the design and construction of buildings, including standards of fire safety. Parallel powers of inspection and enforcement, similar to fire services legislation, are given to local authorities in their roles as building control authorities.