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General Guidance


General fire safety legislation applies in respect of non-domestic premises. Private dwellings are mostly exempt as are: some ships in dock, aircraft, locomotives, rolling stock, trailers or semi-trailers, licensed vehicles, mines, offshore installations, borehole sites and agricultural and forestry land. Houses in Multiple Occupation are within scope.

There are implications for private dwellings - any equipment or facilities provided for the protection or use of firefighters and located in common areas require to be maintained.


In general, fire safety legislation seeks to ensure the safety, in the event of fire, of persons (whether they are employees, residents, visitors or others) by setting out the responsibilities of those persons who have fire safety responsibilities in respect of a premises. Anyone who has control to any extent of non-domestic premises will have some responsibilities for ensuring that those occupying the premises are safe from harm caused by fire. This includes:

  1. Assessing the risk from fire;
  2. Identifying the fire safety measures necessary as a result of the risk assessment;
  3. Implementing these fire safety measures; and
  4. Putting in place arrangements for the ongoing control and review of the fire safety measures.
Fire Safety Risk Assessment

A fire safety risk assessment is a practical exercise aimed at evaluating the risk from fire, how fire can be prevented and how to ensure the safety of persons on, or in the immediate vicinity of the premises in the event of fire. Undertaking a fire safety risk assessment is not a one-off exercise. The risk assessment is a means to an end, not an end in itself. The outcome of the assessment needs to be acted upon, risks need to be controlled in a practical way, and fire safety arrangements need to be in place.

The assessment must also be kept under review and updated as necessary. Some duty holders may wish to employ and external risk assessor for a one-off fire risk assessment, and thereafter act upon the outcomes of the risk assessment and deal with ongoing reviews of the risk assessment in-house.The Fire Safety Guidance Booklet provides information on undertaking the Fire Safety Risk Assessment.

Fire Safety Measures

Fire safety measures are measures for:

  • Reducing the likelihood of fire and spread of fire;
  • Providing adequate means of escape;
  • Providing adequate means of detection and means of giving warning of fire;
  • Providing suitable means of fighting fire;
  • Specifying the action to be taken in the event of fire; and
  • Providing adequate fire safety instruction/training.

The responsibility for deciding on appropriate fire safety measures sits with the persons who have fire safety responsibilities ("duty holders"), who have to consider which measures are most appropriate for the premises. The legislation does not prescribe the nature, quantity or location of the measures to be provided as generally, there are different ways to meet the requirements of the legislation.

The principal legislation involved is Part 3 of the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 and the Fire Safety (Scotland) Regulations 2006.

Obtaining advice on fire safety

Duty holders are free to arrange any assistance they consider appropriate in fulfilling their obligations, including undertaking the fire safety risk assessment. The various guidance documents produced by the Scottish Government and published on this website may be of assistanceHowever, if your own resources are insufficient, or to deal with complex situations, you may be more likely to turn to an external advisor who has a greater depth of understanding of the issues and an ability to judge and solve problems.

If you are looking to employ a specialist, it can be difficult to judge the competence of companies and persons who advertise their services. The fact that a person or company is operating in the fire sector or that someone has previous fire service experience, does not mean that they are a fire safety specialist. As with many other services, when looking for a specialist, it is your responsibility to satisfy yourself that they have the necessary qualifications, experience and indemnity insurance (if appropriate).

There are registration schemes in operation for fire safety specialists. Details of registration and certification schemes are listed in a guidance document on the website of the Fire Sector Federation.

Record keeping

Risk assessment is a decision making process and a distinction should be made between this process and the need, in certain circumstances, to record information. The legislation requires information relating to the assessment and to fire safety arrangements to be recorded where five or more employees are employed; or the premises are subject to licensing or registration; or an alterations notice has been issued requiring this. In these circumstances, the legislation specifies the information to be recorded, which is:

  1. the significant findings of the assessment including the measures which have been or will be taken;
  2. anyone identified by the assessment as being especially at risk from fire;
  3. arrangements for planning, organisation, control, monitoring and review of fire safety measures.

No particular format is prescribed for record keeping. However, specimen blank risk assessment record sheets are available, together with a series of examples of completed forms. The amount of information recorded is likely to be influenced by the life risk in the premises; the complexity of the premises; the activities undertaken; and the existing fire safety measures.


Where a duty holder has a disagreement with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service on compliance issues there is a mechanism for referral for 3rd party independent arbitration. There is also a right of appeal to the court against formal enforcement action.

Interaction with licensing

Licensing authorities cannot impose fire safety requirements where premises are covered by Part 3 of the 2005 Act. Section 71 of the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 states that, where an enactment provides for the licensing of any premises (or a person in respect of premises), "a term, condition or restriction imposed in connection with the issue under such an enactment of the licence shall be of no effect in so far as it relates to any matter in relation to which requirements or prohibitions are or could be imposed by virtue of this Part" i.e. general fire safety matters.

If the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service supplies the licensing authority with information that there are deficiencies in fire safety measures, the licensing authority can take this information into account and may, if it sees fit, refuse to grant or renew a licence on this basis.

Guidance documents

A series of sector specific guides is available.

A Fire Safety Guidance Booklet which was distributed to organisations across Scotland in August 2006.

Guidance on the fire evacuation of disabled persons from buildings

An overview of the fire safety legislation

Strategic guidance for enforcers

Key guidance about fire safety law in 5 alternative languages