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One of the things that really wind me up as a safety professional, is other people, i.e. companies, misrepresenting Health & Safety to further their own ends; particularly within the safety equipment field. Fire safety is one such area.

I recently saw an advertisement for some safety equipment, and part of the page was the statement:

“By law, under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, anyone responsible for a property or business with 5+ people must have a Fire Risk Assessment and therefore a fire extinguisher”.

Fire Kills

They were using this ‘fact’, which they imply you must know, and if you didn’t then you do now, to be a hook to make you surmise that the next logical step is to buy their product too.

So lets dissect their statement.

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRFSO) is genuine legislation; so far so good.

‘Anyone responsible for a property or business with 5+ people must have a Fire Risk Assessment‘; now we’re starting to go wrong, it’s true, but also misleading.

It doesn’t matter if they work on their own with no employees, the Responsible Person has to have assessed the risk from fire if it is not a residential or domestic premises.


The 5 or more comes into effect in that over 4 employees and the risk assessment has to be documented. If there are 4 or fewer, they can just discuss it amongst themselves and not record anything. But it still has to have been carried out.

Then we have the intimation that the Fire Risk Assessment will result in a requirement for a Fire Extinguisher.

What the RRFSO actually says is that, in order to safeguard ‘relevant persons’, the responsible person must ensure that the premises are ‘equipped with appropriate fire-fighting equipment.’

So it may be that there is no requirement for an Extinguisher.

The RRFSO is designed to protect lives, not property. The Fire Risk Assessment may not have found that an extinguisher was appropriate in the circumstances; if people can get to a place of safety without an extinguisher, then there is no legal requirement for one.

What I found really disheartening about this seemingly unethical means of marketing their product, is that there were and are plenty of wholly legitimate means to promote sales of their device.

So please, make sure you take your health and safety guidance from someone who knows the real facts; not an advertising agency…



 Bernard Carey is a Chartered Occupational Safety & Health Practitioner, specialising in providing practical and proportionate support to small businesses.