The Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 places a responsibility on duty holders to carry out a fire risk assessment of the premises and to identify risks and identify actions to control those risks. The duty holders in the Scottish Episcopal Church are the Vestries and Clergy.
The duty holder must ensure that the fire risk assessments are carried out by a “Competent Person”. This is someone who has had sufficient training and has good experience or knowledge of fire safety. Unless the Vestry has access to this expertise from within the congregation, it will be necessary to seek competent help from a health and safety or fire safety consultant. The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service do not carry out risk assessments, but they are available to offer fire safety advice. Contact details for your local Fire Safety Office can be found here.
The vestry should also ensure that the church buildings are equipped with the appropriate fire extinguishers, fire blankets, etc. These must be professionally checked at regular intervals.
Assessing Fire Risk
To help prevent fire in the workplace, your risk assessment should identify what could cause a fire to start, i.e. sources of ignition (heat or sparks) and substances that burn, and the people who may be at risk. Once you have identified the risks, you can take appropriate action to control them. Consider whether you can avoid them altogether or, if this is not possible, how you can reduce the risks and manage them. Based on the findings of the assessment, employers need to ensure that adequate and appropriate fire safety measures are in place to minimise the risk of injury or loss of life in the event of a fire.
It is strongly recommended that the vestry employ a professional risk assessor who is competent in fire safety. A useful guide to choosing a fire risk assessor can be found here.
If you decide to carry out your own risk assessment then templates for performing an assessment are available here.
Note that the fire risk assessment must be kept up-to-date and the Fire and Rescue Service are entitled to audit them.
Evacuation / Means of escape arrangements
A guidance note on fire safety responsibilities has been published by the Scottish Government which includes a chapter on Provision and Use of Means of Escape.
Full Scottish Government Fire Safety Guidance
A guidance note on fire safety responsibilities has been published by the Scottish Government.