School fire safety

All schools must ensure that fire precautions in such premises comply with all relevant health and safety legislation cited in this section, including The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, and The Education (School Premises) Regulations 2012.

The Education (School Premises) Regulations provide that it must be possible for every part of a school or college building to be safely evacuated in case of fire.

Attention must be given to:

  • means of escape from the building;
  • the likely rate at which flames would spread across exposed surfaces;
  • the fire resistance of structures and materials in the building.

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 requires employers to carry out risk assessments and record the significant findings, taking steps to reduce or remove the risks posed by fire.

The Education (School Premises) Regulations 2012 apply to all maintained schools in England and Wales, including nursery, community, foundation and voluntary schools, as well as pupil referral units. The premises of non-maintained special schools and independent schools approved by the Secretary of State for children with special educational needs are also subject to these regulations. It is important that all schools covered by the regulations adhere to these provisions.

Making a risk assessment

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order consolidates all previous fire safety legislation.

It requires employers to carry out fire risk assessments to examine and control the likelihood of a fire starting, and the consequences of a fire if one were to start.

Fire safety management

Governors and headteachers/principals are legally responsible for ensuring that adequate systems are in place and that checks are carried out to reduce the risk of fire starting. Effective fire safety management in educational establishments will include:

  • ensuring that all members of staff are given adequate training and information;
  • fire evacuation drills should take place at least once a term, at different times of the day, with records kept of the drills and action taken to prevent the recurrence of any problems;
  • clear fire instructions should be displayed in all buildings; escape routes should be clearly signposted and free from obstruction;
  • fire doors should be clearly marked, kept closed, only opened in the event of a fire and be kept clear on both sides at all times;
  • fire-fighting equipment, alarms and smoke detectors must be checked regularly by a trained person;
  • adequate arrangements must be made for storing and disposing of flammable/combustible materials;
  • electrical equipment should be serviced regularly to prevent fires;
  • evacuation procedures should include arrangements for people with disabilities;
  • appropriate measures are in place when buildings are in use outside normal hours.

Fire risk assessment

Risk assessment is at the heart of fire safety management. A fire risk assessment follows the same principles as any risk assessment:

  • Step one: Identify the fire hazards, eg what could start a fire, combustible materials, etc;
  • Step two: Identify people at risk (look at numbers of people, vulnerable groups and the likelihood of the fire spreading);
  • Step three: Evaluate the risks and implement control measures to remove or reduce the risk;
  • Step four: Record the findings and inform staff and safety reps;
  • Step five: Review and revise the plan as and when there are changes in work activities, the use of the building, etc.

Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service are the enforcing body for the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) order 2005 within Warwickshire. This is carried out via programmed inspections and requests for advice and assistance.

The Home Office has produced guides to accompany the Regulations, which is useful to read alongside this publication.

The guides explain what fire risk assessment is and how to go about it. It also focuses on the provision of fire precautions in the workplace in the light of the findings of fire risk assessment.