Nine out of 10 UK Small Businesses Ignorant of Fire Safety Laws

Inside view of a english pubNinety percent of small businesses with fewer than 10 employees are failing to conduct appropriate fire-risk assessments or follow basic fire-safety procedures, a survey has revealed.

FireUK, which provides fire-risk assessments across the UK, found that many businesses with members of the public regularly on their premises also have no named responsible person in charge of fire safety.

According to the telephone survey of 580 restaurateurs, publicans, takeaway owners and owners of office-based businesses:

“We are shocked to the core by these figures,” said FireUK spokesperson Mark Hall. “We thought we would find a few companies that fell outside the law, not whole sectors of small businesses playing Russian roulette with people’s lives.

“The fact that some pubs don’t know the law is terrifying,” he continued. “They are playing with fire, quite literally. There’s a huge blind spot among business owners who don’t know where their responsibilities lie.”

Ignorance, confusion and neglect

The survey revealed a mixture of ignorance, confusion over the regulations and sheer, wilful neglect. Some business owners admitted they were unaware that fire safety legislation applied to them, particularly those in smaller rented units who often assumed that the building owners were ultimately responsible instead.

Others thought that safety was a secondary consideration when budgets were tight, while some event put their trust in their staff escaping from a fire on their own initiative.

Among the explanations given by business owners were:

Legal requirements

The law requires that:

New partnership

Simon Ince, UK strategic alliance and partnership manager at Exova Warrington Certification, is in the early stages of establishing a trade and professional body working group to target individuals who are difficult to engage with over fire safety.

He told IFSEC Global: “It is really useful to see some figures on how big a problem this is. However, the results are no surprise to those who work in fire safety and indeed could be reflected in many different sectors.

“The apathy, ignorance and denial factor is well known amongst fire safety professionals, who often end up being called in by the owner of a building after a fire incident or post-enforcement visit to pick up the pieces.

“There are many building owners who are not aware of their responsibilities and many who just don’t care about fire safety. Compliance saves lives, saves property and saves business.

The fire sector needs to work much harder to engage with, and inform, this group of owners and operators. Hopefully this project will reduce the apathy, ignorance and denial in several high-risk groups.”

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Rohen Fire
Rohen Fire

Hi Adam, thanks for covering these really interesting survey results. We're based in Toronto, Canada and this came to our attention via Twitter. We thought it was important enough (even across the pond) to cover in our own blog:

We cite both the original FIA study as well as your post, because you brought a lot of new insights and additional information versus the FIA link I had. A really important issue; appreciate the attention to the issue.


I agree with Richard. These figures are ridiculous; if an awareness campaign gets out there, people can no longer put the blame on them being 'unaware'. 

richard woodward
richard woodward

I think most fire officers will tell you that many small and medium businesses are ignorant of their fire safety obligations even after 8 years of the Fire Safety Order.  Its about time the Government ran a national campaign to raise awareness in this sector thereby reducing risk and increasing public safety.


  1. […] Nine out of ten UK small firms are unaware of their legal responsibility to carry out a fire risk assessment according to a survey done by FireUK. Survey results […]

Cherry Park

Journalist, Cherry Park

Author Bio ▼

Cherry Park is an experienced freelance journalist and reporter who specializes in features, news, and news analysis, in print and online. She has written extensively in the areas of health and safety, fire safety, employment, HR, recruitment, rewards, pay and benefits, market research, environment, and metallurgy, and she also conducts research.
June 30, 2014

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