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Fire Safety Compliances and Regulations

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Monday, April 23, 2018  12.33PM /Oserogho & Associates 


Introduction
Increments in population and urbanisation, with no commensurate improvement and expansion in public infrastructure, have in no small measure contributed to the increase in fire incidents and fire related fatalities. 

The safety of lives and properties, especially from avoidable fire accidents, must now occupy a higher place in the Risk Management priorities of every business. It is therefore very important for all business owners, operators and managers to ensure that they are constantly abreast with all Fire Safety Laws, Regulations, Codes and Industry best practices; all of which have an impact on their investments.  

Role of Fire Service Departments
The Federal and various State Governments have Fire Service Laws. Common to both Federal and States Fire Service Laws is/are the establishment of the Fire Service Departments whose principal statutory responsibility is to facilitate all fire-fighting and fire-prevention activities in their jurisdictions.

Some of the fire-fighting activities envisaged by statutes include the prevention, control and extinguishment of any kind of fire. Others are the saving and protection of lives and properties; and other humanitarian services related to fire prevention and control. 

The Fire Service Laws also require each Fire Service Department to make efficient arrangements for the Fire Service to manage distress calls for fire or other emergency assistance whenever the need arises.  

Fire Service Certificate
One of the very important operating Licencesthat any business premises must apply for and retain, on an annual basis, is a Fire Safety Certificate. This Certificate is usually issued by the Fire Service Department that is closest to the location where the business premises is situated. 

The Fire Service certification process, at its onset, begins with the Fire Service Department inspecting the business premises to ensure that the premises meet the minimum safety standards for properties in the area where the business premises is located. 

The Fire Service will, during the inspection of a business premises, verify that the premises has sufficient fire-fighting and fire-prevention facilities and equipment. Examples of the latter are access to sufficient water supply, with fire hydrants; heat and/or smoke detectors; fire alarms; signages for fire-fighting equipment; the means of escape in the event of a fire; in-house fire extinguishers; other fire-fighting equipment; fire drills protocols; etc. 

Upon satisfactory compliance with the minimum fire safety standards, a Fire Safety Certificate invoice is issued and paid for before the Fire Safety Certificate is issued.  

Powers of the Fire Service
In addition to the statutory responsibilities of preventing and fighting fires, the Fire Service is also empowered to publish Fire Safety Regulations. 

Where there is a fire, the most senior member of the Fire Service, shall in the absence of a Senior Police Officer at the scene of the fire, be in control of all traffic in and around the fire scene. Such Senior Fire Officer is also empowered to evacuate all persons including the property owner from the property that is under fire until such a fire is extinguished and the property is declared safe to return to. 

Any injury to any person, or damage to property by the Fire Service Department personnel, in the cause of putting out a fire, are exempted from any civil liability as fighting fires are for the overriding public good. 

Persons and vehicles in and around a fire incident area shall yield the right of way to all fire engines, other fire-fighting equipment and personnel during any fire-fighting operation.  

Fire Safety Offences
Any contravention of any of the above–mentioned provisions - e.g. obstruction, failure to yield the right of way to fire-fighting personnel and equipment, assault of fire service personnel, false fire alarm, interference with fire-fighting equipment, etc. - constitutes a chargeable offence which on conviction attracts a fine, or a term of imprisonment, or both the fine and the term of imprisonment for severe and repeat offenders. 

Conclusion
Legislations and Regulations that govern fire safety are mostly outdated and not in tandem with modern economic realities. 

A vast number of Fire Service Departments are poorly funded and equipped to fulfill their statutory functions. 

Business owners and managers will do well to conduct regular Fire Risk Assessment audits to determine and ensure that their fire safety risks and fire management protocols and equipment are adequate and up-to-date to prevent and fight any unforeseen fire incident.  

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NB: This Legal Alert is a free educational material, for your general information and enlightenment ONLY. This Alert, by itself, does not create a Client/Attorney relationship. Recipients are therefore advised to seek professional legal counselling to their specific situations when they do arise. Questions, comments, criticisms, suggestions, new ideas, contributions, etc are always welcomed. This Legal Alert is protected by Intellectual Property Law and Regulations and is reproduced by Proshare Nigeria Limited under permission, for the Proshare online investment community, from Oserogho & Associates [ contactus@oseroghoassociates.com ]

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