18 May 2015

“If I’m a commercial tenant in a commercial, multi-occupancy building, I don’t have to worry about fire safety because the landlord or managing agent deals with everything.”

Wrong. In any workplace, the responsible person, under the Fire Safety Order, is the employer, if the workplace is to any extent under the employer’s control. The definition of workplace includes the means of access to, and egress from, the workplace. As an employer, you have an unconditional duty of care for the safety of your employees.

Obviously, you will need to ensure that there are adequate fire precautions in the area that you occupy. Under the terms of your lease, the landlord or managing agent may be responsible for the fire precautions in the common parts, such as stairways, and for common systems, such as the building’s fire alarm system. This brings about a duty on their part to ensure the adequacy of these fire precautions. However, you cannot just leave it to them to ensure that fire precautions that affect the fire safety of your employees are adequate.

In effect, your workplace includes the common parts and escape routes up to the point at which your employees reach the public highway. You should, therefore, via your fire risk assessment, ensure that the fire precautions in the common parts are adequate for the safety of your employees, and that the landlord or managing agent has adequate arrangements in place for the testing and maintenance of the relevant fire precautions 

You’re also required to co-operate with the landlord or managing agent in the coordination of fire precautions. This means that you will need to comply with the fire precautions and procedures formulated by the landlord or managing agent, and to ensure that your employees participate in the landlord’s fire drills.