The primary legislation governing fire safety in premises accommodating paying guests in England is the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, commonly referred to as the Fire Safety Order.
These fire regulations exist throughout the UK to prioritise the safety of guests in self-catering holiday accommodations. It’s crucial for owners to remain informed about guidelines, maintain compliance with regulations, and prioritise guest safety.
In response to evolving safety standards, the UK Government released updated guidance for “Small Holiday Lets,” starting from October 1st, 2023. These regulations are designed to enhance fire safety measures in holiday accommodation, ensuring the protection of both guests and properties. Here’s everything you need to ensure your holiday let is fire safe.
Key Highlights of the Fire Safety New Regulations for Holiday Lets:
Comprehensive Fire Risk Assessment: Owners of holiday lets will be required to conduct thorough fire risk assessments of their properties. This assessment aims to identify potential fire hazards and implement appropriate measures to mitigate risks effectively.
Enhanced Fire Detection Systems: The new regulations mandate the installation of advanced fire detection systems, including smoke detectors, heat detectors, and fire alarm panels, to provide early warning in the event of a fire.
Regular Maintenance and Testing: Property owners must ensure regular maintenance and testing of fire alarm systems to guarantee they are in proper working order at all times. This includes periodic inspections and servicing by qualified professionals.
Clear Emergency Evacuation Procedures: Holiday let owners must develop clear and concise emergency evacuation procedures for guests. These procedures should outline evacuation routes, assembly points, and other essential information to ensure the safe evacuation of occupants during a fire emergency.
Fire Safety Training: Owners and managers of holiday lets are responsible for providing fire safety training to staff and guests. Training should cover fire prevention techniques, emergency response protocols, and the proper use of firefighting equipment.
Compliance with Building Regulations: Holiday let properties must adhere to building regulations pertaining to fire safety, including the installation of fire-resistant materials and the provision of adequate escape routes.
Documentation and Record-Keeping: Property owners are required to maintain detailed records of fire risk assessments, maintenance activities, and staff training to demonstrate compliance with the new regulations.
Fire Risk Assessment
Owners of small holiday accommodation are required to perform a thorough fire risk assessment of their property. This involves meticulously examining the premises to pinpoint fire hazards, establishing preventive measures, and implementing safeguards to protect all occupants, including guests, staff, and any other users of the property.
As part of your risk assessment, it is crucial to recognise and mitigate any fire hazards present in your property. We have listed some examples of the fire hazards outlined in the government guidance below.
Electrical Safety Guidelines for Small Paying-Guest-Accommodation:
Ensure Regular Inspection: Schedule regular checks by a qualified electrical contractor to examine wiring and equipment for any signs of damage or wear. Inspections should occur at least every five years.
Engage Competent Contractors: Any electrical work should be carried out by competent contractors certified by organizations such as the National Inspection Council for Electrical Installation Contracting (NICEIC) or the Electrical Contractors Association (ECA).
Maintain Fuse Boards and Appliances: Keep fuse boards and circuit breakers in good condition and properly labelled. Regularly inspect appliances to ensure they are in safe working order, including checking plugs, cables, and cleaning lint filters.
Register and Monitor Appliances: Register appliances with the manufacturer and regularly check for recalls. Conduct visual inspections between lets to ensure all appliances are in good condition.
Bed and Breakfast Accommodation: Electrical appliances should undergo periodic in-house service and testing according to the IET Code of Practice for In-Service Inspection and Testing of Electrical Equipment.
Minimize Extension Cables: Avoid using extension cables, trailing leads, and adaptors whenever possible to reduce the risk of electrical hazards.
For further guidance on electrical safety and maintaining appliances, visit www.hse.gov.uk/electricity.
Smoking Policy Guidelines:
Establish Clear Policy: Develop a comprehensive smoking policy that includes guidelines for smoking, vaping, and e-cigarettes.
Prohibit Smoking in Public Spaces: Smoking in communal areas like rooms and corridors in bed and breakfast accommodations is prohibited by law. Ensure employees and guests are aware of this regulation.
Display No Smoking Signs: If smoking is not permitted in bedrooms, prominently display signs to communicate this rule effectively.
Encourage Smoking Outdoors: In self-catering accommodations and self-contained flats, encourage individuals to smoke outdoors for safety reasons.
Provide Safe Disposal Options: If smoking is allowed on the premises, supply safety ashtrays and bins for the proper disposal of cigarettes and related materials.
Arson Prevention Measures:
Enhance Physical Security: Prioritise strong physical security measures and maintain vigilant oversight to mitigate the risk of arson.
Secure Entrance and Exit Points: Ensure that entrance and exit doors are properly secured to prevent unauthorised access, while still facilitating easy escape in case of emergency.
Clear Surrounding Areas: Keep combustible materials, refuse, and recycling bins clear of the premises, especially around windows, to minimise the risk of external fires spreading through openings into the premises.
Heating Safety Guidelines:
Ensure Annual Maintenance: Arrange for annual maintenance of heating and hot water systems by a qualified contractor to uphold their proper functioning.
Minimize Portable Heater Usage: Whenever possible, avoid using portable heaters. If necessary, adhere to the manufacturer’s safety instructions and prioritize heaters equipped with automatic cutoff switches, like electric oil-filled radiators.
Avoid Hazardous Heaters: Refrain from using risky heaters such as radiant bar fires or LPG heaters to mitigate fire hazards.
Maintain Safe Placement: Keep heaters away from combustible materials and exit routes to prevent potential fire hazards.
Install Carbon Monoxide Detectors: Install carbon monoxide detectors in areas containing gas or solid fuel-burning appliances to detect any leaks.
Fireplace Safety Measures: Implement safety measures for open fires or log burners, including providing fire/spark guards, regular chimney sweeping, installing spark arrestors or bird guards as needed, ensuring adequate hearth size, storing fire-related materials safely, supplying metal ashbins, and providing clear instructions to all users.
Cooking Safety Guidelines:
Maintain Appliance Cleanliness: Regularly clean and upkeep cooking appliances to ensure safe operation.
Provide Safety Instructions: Furnish guests with instructions for safely using appliances to prevent accidents.
Clean Extract Filters: Clean extract filters regularly to prevent the accumulation of grease and flammable deposits.
Gas Appliance Maintenance: Arrange for annual checks and servicing of gas appliances by a Gas Safe registered engineer.
Use Thermostatically Controlled Fryers: Preferably, utilize deep fat fryers equipped with thermostatic controls for added safety.
Install Cut-off Devices: Install cut-off devices on pipework from external sources to internal cooking appliances for LPG cookers.
Candle Fire Safety Guidance:
Awareness of Fire Hazards: Candles and tea lights are frequent fire hazards and can lead to severe consequences, including fatalities.
Prohibition Policy: Guests should not be provided with candles, tea lights, or ethanol burners for use. Establish a clear policy prohibiting their use to mitigate fire risks.
Housekeeping Fire Safety Guidance:
Regular Waste Removal: Ensure domestic waste is regularly removed from the property to minimize fire risk.
Waste Disposal Instructions: Provide clear instructions to guests on the safe disposal of waste to prevent fire hazards.
Management of Combustible Materials: Keep combustible materials like linen and towels away from ignition sources or heat. Pay close attention to areas containing electrical equipment or ignition sources.
Clear Escape Routes: Maintain clear escape routes, such as halls and staircases, by keeping them free of combustible materials or storage. This is crucial for ensuring swift evacuation in case of fire emergencies.
Furniture and Furnishings Fire Safety Guidance:
Ensure that all furniture and furnishings provided in your premises comply with the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988 (as amended).
Contractor Fire Safety:
Ensure that contractors are competent and qualified for the specific tasks they are hired to perform. Contractors, especially those engaged in “hot work” activities like blow lamps or work on flat roofs, should be carefully monitored to prevent fire incidents.
Safe Handling of Dangerous Substances:
If you utilise or store hazardous substances such as flammable liquids (e.g., petrol for lawnmowers), it’s crucial to ensure their safe use and storage. Ideally, store them outside the building in securely locked metal bins to minimize fire risks. Guests should either be prohibited from using these substances or provided with clear instructions on their safe handling.
In blocks of flats, refrain from using barbecues and patio heaters on external balconies to prevent fire hazards. If used in gardens, ensure barbecues, patio heaters, or fire pits are positioned at a safe distance from the property.
For liquid propane gas (LPG) barbecues and heaters, strictly adhere to the manufacturer’s instructions. Provide guests with comprehensive guidelines for the safe usage of all equipment.
Fire Protection Measures
Fire Escape Routes
Ensuring safe evacuation routes is crucial in any guest accommodation to comply with fire safety regulations, necessitating clear pathways, direct emergency exit routes, accessibility for all guests, secure yet easy-to-operate exit doors, minimised inner rooms, ground-floor rooms with clear escape windows, and seeking professional advice for challenging scenarios.
Ensure easy accessibility of light switches and consider backup lighting options like emergency escape lights or rechargeable torches, especially in hallways and staircases, to facilitate safe evacuation in case of power failure, with additional options including night lights and external lighting for well-lit escape routes and outdoor areas.
Fire Escape Signage
In straightforward premises where escape routes are clear and frequently used, fire exit signs may not be necessary. However, if exit routes are not obvious, signage may be required to indicate escape paths and exit door locations. It’s important to include escape route details in the information pack provided to guests.
During a fire, prioritising evacuation is crucial, and guests should not be expected to use firefighting equipment. However, if staff are present or visit regularly, providing firefighting equipment is necessary, along with proper training on its use. Clear instructions should be provided, emphasising evacuation as the primary response.
In self-catering accommodations, a small multi-purpose fire extinguisher or fire blanket in the kitchen area may be provided for additional safety, but guests should not be expected to use them extensively. It’s essential to regularly check fire extinguishers for pressure and avoid using multi-purpose powder extinguishers in enclosed spaces.
Fire Detection and Alarm Systems
In small premises, a full fire detection and alarm system may not be needed, but some may already have one. If not, interlinked domestic smoke and heat alarms should be installed in key areas. These alarms ensure simultaneous activation and should ideally be mains powered with a battery backup (Grade D1 alarms). Alternatively, Grade F1 alarms with long-life sealed batteries can be used temporarily.
Fire Escape Plan
Owners should establish comprehensive fire procedures for all occupants, including staff, guests, and visitors. Provide guests with clear instructions, such as through visual aids or welcome materials, ensuring awareness of exit routes and emergency contacts. Plans should cater to diverse demographics and languages, guaranteeing self-sufficiency in evacuation.
Maintenance and Testing
Ensure that all fire protection measures within your premises are regularly maintained and tested to ensure they are functioning effectively. Some maintenance tasks can be performed independently, while others may require the expertise of a qualified contractor. Maintain thorough records of all testing and maintenance activities either in a logbook or electronically. Use a checklist to ensure that items and equipment are inspected according to current best practices. Additionally, be aware that smoke and heat alarms will need to be replaced periodically, typically every 10 years for smoke alarms, depending on the model.
The following checks and tests should be carried out as specified below:
Daily Checks (for premises in which staff or the owners are present) :
- Ensure exit routes are unobstructed.
Weekly Checks (for premises in which staff or owners are present):
- Test fire detection and alarm systems.
- Check fire-resisting doors for effective closure.
- Ensure all exit doors are easily opened.
- Test rechargeable torches and emergency lighting.
- Test domestic smoke/heat alarms.
- Service fire detection and alarm systems.
- Inspect fire doors for damage and fit.
- Service emergency escape lighting and fire extinguishers.
Change of occupancy where staff or owners are absent (e.g., self-catering accommodations):
- Repeat weekly and monthly tests.
What Holiday Letting Properties are Covered by the New Guidelines?
The updated fire safety guidelines pertain to holiday accommodations hosting fewer than 10 individuals and featuring a maximum of 4 bedrooms on the first floor. This encompasses a range of lodging options like cottages, chalets, caravans, and glamping pods.
Please be aware that these guidelines are applicable solely to properties situated on the ground floor or spanning the ground and first floor. Properties exceeding 2 floors are not covered by this guidance. If your holiday let comprises more than 2 floors, it is advisable to follow alternative government guidance concerning premises with guest sleeping accommodations.
Ensuring the safety of your holiday property is paramount, and adherence to these fire regulations is a vital measure in achieving this. Remain informed, conduct routine assessments, and implement necessary precautions to establish a secure environment for your guests.
How Fire Safety Solutions Can Help You
As a leading provider of fire safety solutions and fire safety consultancy services, Fire Safety Solutions (FSS) offers a range of fire safety services tailored to meet the unique needs of small holiday lets and self-catering accommodation.
With a commitment to excellence and safety, we help our letting owners create a safer environment for themselves and their guests. Contact us today to learn more about our fire safety services for holiday lettings and discover how we can help you achieve fire safety excellence.