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  • Writer's pictureDorset Health and Safety

How Often Should a Fire Alarm be Tested?

Fires in the workplace are more common than you may think. In the UK, there were 11,916 reported during 2021 period, according to government figures.

Early detection of a fire is critical for saving lives and protecting property. Fire alarms are a crucial first line of defence against fire in the workplace. But, like any health and safety equipment, they must be properly maintained and tested to ensure they are in working order.

Just how often should a fire alarm be tested? If you’re the designated Responsible Person, you need to know. This article outlines the legal requirements for fire alarm testing in the workplace. We’ll explain when to test fire alarms and where you can find further fire safety training.

Importance of Fire Alarms in the Workplace

Modern fire alarms are incredibly effective as an early warning system and can alert workers to the presence of fire before it gets out of control. Being able to respond quickly when a fire breaks out is vital to save lives and protect property.

The majority of fatalities that occur during a fire are due to smoke inhalation rather than burns. By the time flames are visible, smoke may have already caused people to lose consciousness. In most cases, a fire alarm will detect the presence of smoke long before anyone notices that there is a fire in a building.

Does My Workplace Require Fire Alarms?

It’s a legal requirement for every workplace to have fire alarms installed. This is stipulated in the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. Under this legislation, a ‘responsible person’ is obligated to ensure that appropriate fire detectors and fire alarms are installed, wherever necessary, in the workplace.

Currently, there is a minimum penalty of £5,000 for not having fire alarms installed in your place of business. For serious breaches of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, there is no monetary limit on penalties. In the most severe cases, criminal charges may result in a prison sentence.

Who is Responsible for Testing Fire Alarm Systems at Work?

The Fire Safety Order 2005 mandates that the test should be carried out by a competent person to make sure that all fire alarms in the workplace are maintained and functioning effectively.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) defines the responsible person – also known as a competent person – as someone who has been trained in fire safety measures and has sufficient knowledge and experience to perform their duties.

What Are the Different Types of Fire Alarm Systems?

There are three main types of fire alarm systems found in businesses and private homes throughout the UK. These are:

  • Conventional fire alarm systems – low-cost, simple systems usually used in smaller premises with low fire risk

  • Addressable fire alarm systems – more complex systems used in larger buildings such as offices, schools or hospitals

  • Wireless fire alarm systems – systems that are used in structures where cabling is not practical, such as historic buildings

How Often Should a Fire Alarm Be Tested?

The frequency in which the responsible person should test fire alarms is outlined under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and further clarified in the British Standard BS 5839. The standard states that fire alarms should be tested on a weekly basis to ensure that there are no critical failures and that the alarm is working properly.

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