Practical fire safety guidance for existing premises with sleeping accommodation: consultation

This consultation seeks views on revised and consolidated fire safety advice for residential premises with sleeping accommodation.

Chapter 1: Preface


1. In 2006, the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 (‘the 2005 Act’) introduced changes to fire safety law in Scotland and repealed previous fire safety legislation. This guide has been produced to assist those who have responsibility under this Act for ensuring fire safety in certain premises with sleeping accommodation in Scotland. In addition, the guide has a statutory basis for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (“ SFRS”), as an enforcer.

2. This guide, prepared by the Scottish Government, offers fire safety advice in respect of certain existing premises with sleeping accommodation. It consolidates and supersedes a number of individual Scottish Government guides, and introduces a substantial number of editorial changes aimed at improving dutyholders’ understanding of the guidance. The guides superseded are:

  • Practical Fire Safety Guidance for Small Premises Providing Sleeping Accommodation, 2010
  • Practical Fire Safety Guidance for Medium and Large Premises Providing Sleeping Accommodation, 2008
  • Practical Fire Safety Guidance for Small Bed and Breakfast and Self-catering Premises, 2010 (The content of this superseded guide has been used as the basis for annex 1, see paragraph 6)

3. At the same time, the Scottish Government guide Practical Fire Safety Guidance for Healthcare Premises, 2008 is withdrawn, giving preference to the fire safety guidance issued by NHS Scotland (see paragraph 9).


4. The guidance in this document is applicable to general fire safety in existing residential premises in which there is sleeping accommodation. This includes:

  • hotels, tourism hostels, refuges
  • holiday lets and holiday complexes, camping and caravan sites (other than privately used individual units)
  • bunkhouses, bunk barns
  • sleeping accommodation for pupils, students or employees
  • all types of houses in multiple occupation ( HMO) [1]
  • boarding houses, guest houses, bed and breakfast accommodation [2]

5. Where paying guests are accommodated, fire safety law applies equally to traditional accommodation providers and also in respect of ‘peer to peer’ accommodation providers where accommodation is marketed through online platforms.

6. Annex 1 to this guide contains stand-alone simple guidance for well-managed small bed and breakfast and self-catering premises. Relative to other ‘sleeping risk’ premises, the risk from fire to persons in this type of property is likely to be relatively low. Annex 1 applies where:

  • premises are used for self-catering holidays if occupied by not more than 10 persons
  • bed and breakfast premises in the home of a resident operator (for not more than 8 guests)

and which in either case, have a means of escape from bedrooms via a traditional ‘hall’ with at least one exit directly to the outside; do not have letting or guest accommodation below a ground floor or above a first floor; do not act as the principal residence for paying guests; and do not have any storey area over 200 m 2 internal floor space.

7. Annex 2 contains benchmarks applicable for holiday camping and caravan sites.

8. This guide does not apply to care homes for which there is a separate guide [3] , nor to premises used for childminding with overnight provision for which there is also separate general guidance [4] , nor to premises where persons are detained in lawful custody, such as prisons.

9. This guide does not apply to hospitals. Guidance for fire safety in hospitals in Scotland is contained in the suite of documents known as ‘ NHSScotland Firecode’ issued by Health Facilities Scotland.

10. Much of the guidance in this document relates to buildings, however, the requirements of fire safety law also apply to other structures, external areas and open air sites.

11. This guide applies to existing premises and is not a design guide for new build. All new residential buildings must be designed to the mandatory standards under the Building (Scotland) Regulations 2004. Similarly, buildings which undergo extension, structural alteration or change of use should also meet the standards (and be subject to building warrant approval, where required). Design guidance in respect of building regulations is contained in the Scottish Building Standards Technical Handbooks .

Fire Safety Law

12. Part 3 of the 2005 Act, along with the Fire Safety (Scotland) Regulations 2006, sets out the fire safety duties in respect of the majority of non-domestic premises in Scotland.

13. The legislation requires the provision of fire safety measures; this includes risk reduction measures, means of fire warning, fire-fighting, escape, staff training and instruction, as well as emergency procedures. It sets out fire safety responsibilities and seeks to ensure the safety of persons from harm caused by fire.

14. The list below is a summary of the general requirements imposed and is not intended to be comprehensive; anyone in doubt about their legal obligations may wish to seek further advice. Guidance on complying with these general requirements is considered in more detail in the remaining chapters:

  • assessing the risk from fire in respect of the premises
  • identifying the fire safety measures necessary as a result of the assessment of risk
  • implementing these fire safety measures, using risk reduction principles
  • putting in place fire safety arrangements for the ongoing control and review of the fire safety measures
  • complying additionally with the specific requirements of the fire safety regulations
  • keeping the fire safety risk assessment and outcome under review
  • record keeping

15. The general fire safety provisions in Part 3 of the 2005 Act take precedence over the terms and conditions imposed in relation to licences issued under other legislation. Section 71 of the 2005 Act has the effect that terms, conditions or restrictions in such licences – including statutory certification or registration schemes – have no effect if they relate to fire safety requirements or prohibitions which are, or could be, imposed under Part 3.

Who Must Comply with these Duties?

16. The responsibility for complying with the fire safety duties in premises which provide sleeping accommodation sits with the employer and/or other persons who operate or have control of the premises to any extent. This might include managers, landlords, owners and staff – and in some cases, residents. Contractors and volunteers working on site may also have some responsibilities through their degree of control or responsibility for fire safety. In this guide, persons with fire safety responsibilities are referred to generally as ‘dutyholders’.

17. In the case of holiday homes, unstaffed HMOs, and other premises with no management or proprietor presence, some fire safety responsibility may sit with residents and this should be considered as part of the tenancy or letting arrangement.

18. Under fire safety law, all dutyholders are required to take all reasonable measures regarding the safety of persons. Employers additionally have a specific obligation to ensure the safety of employees in the event of fire, so far as is reasonably practicable. This means that fire safety measures need to be taken to address risk, but not to the extent that cost, effort and other disadvantages associated with the provision of fire safety measures would be disproportionate to the risk to life. In this respect a judgement is made about the cost of measures being proportionate to the resulting risk reduction, not the capacity of a dutyholder to pay.

19. Where premises or responsibilities are shared, each employer, owner or other person who has control over any part of the premises is required to co-operate and co-ordinate in respect of complying with fire safety law and to inform each other of risks.

20. If the requirements of fire safety law are not complied with, the omission may constitute a criminal offence with a penalty of a fine or imprisonment.

Obtaining Advice on Fire Safety

21. The responsibility for carrying out an assessment of fire risk, reviewing such an assessment and taking fire safety measures rests with dutyholders.

22. Dutyholders should consider their own capabilities and circumstances in respect of assessing and managing risk, and factors such as the size and use of premises and the number and type of persons involved.

23. Whilst dutyholders are usually best placed to know their premises, they will need to decide whether they, or their employees where applicable, have the capability to assess fire risk. If dutyholders do not have sufficient resources, skills or experience to undertake a fire safety risk assessment themselves they can arrange for a suitably qualified person or company to carry out an assessment on their behalf.

24. When looking to contract 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.

25. Both the Scottish Government and the SFRS recommend that dutyholders who wish to contract the services of an external fire safety risk assessor, select an assessor from a list of competent fire risk assessors maintained by a professional body or a UKAS accredited third party certification body. Alternatively they could use the services of companies, including sole traders, that are third party certificated under appropriate schemes operated by certification bodies that have, themselves, been UKAS accredited as competent to certificate against such schemes. (The benefit of company certification is that the certification body monitors the quality of the certificated company’s work and confirms that there is a system for management of quality within the certificated company).

26. The SFRS maintains a list of UKAS accredited certification bodies and professional registration schemes, which can be accessed on its website [5] . The SFRS has not assessed and does not endorse any individuals or companies participating in these schemes. However, participation in such schemes can offer a degree of assurance that a risk assessor (individual or company) has met the professional requirements of the scheme.

27. Generally, reviews of a risk assessment should be carried out regularly by the dutyholder to ensure it remains valid. This will reinforce ownership of fire safety management and assist in the development of relevant knowledge, and of a fire safety culture. However, where significant changes to premises have occurred or if the dutyholder continues to feel that they lack the time, knowledge or skills required to undertake a thorough review, it may be advisable.

Who Enforces the Fire Safety Law?

28. While the responsibility for compliance with the legislation sits with dutyholders, there is provision in the legislation for an enforcing authority with enforcement powers.

29. The SFRS enforces Part 3 of the 2005 Act and relevant regulations in respect of the majority of residential non-domestic premises.

30. The SFRS policy towards enforcement is proactive and it adopts an enabling approach to assist dutyholders in complying with their obligations.

31. Enforcement officers’ powers are listed in section 62 of the 2005 Act: they may do anything necessary to allow them to enforce the provisions of the legislation. This includes entering premises, inspecting, requesting information, records or assistance, copying or removing documents; carrying out measurements or tests; taking samples, dismantling articles, and taking possession of an article for examination or evidence.

32. If the SFRS is not satisfied with the outcome of a dutyholder’s assessment of fire risk in the premises, or the action taken by a dutyholder, or the fire safety measures in place, it may send out a letter which requests or specifies that certain action or measures be taken and may request that a dutyholder draws up an action plan for implementation of the measures.

33. The SFRS has the power to take formal action in certain situations. This could involve:

  • the issuing of an ‘Enforcement Notice’ that requires specified action to be taken
  • the issuing of a ‘Prohibition Notice’ in cases of serious risk so that the use of all or part of the premises is restricted until specified matters are remedied
  • reporting the matter for prosecution

34. Additionally, the SFRS has power to issue an ‘Alterations Notice’ that requires the recipient to inform the enforcing authority before making specified changes to the premises.

35. Failure to comply with a notice issued by the enforcing authority or placing persons at risk of death or serious injury by failing to carry out any duty imposed by fire safety law is an offence.

36. Where there is disagreement between a dutyholder and the enforcing authority on compliance issues, the dispute may be suitable for referral for a determination. Dispute determination is a 3 rd party independent resolution arrangement. Information on this provision is available on the web pages of the Fire Service Inspectorate at

37. There is also a right of appeal to the court against a Prohibition Notice, Enforcement Notice or Alterations Notice, within 21 days from the date the notice is issued.

38. While the general fire safety measures required by the 2005 Act are enforced by SFRS, there are some matters that are enforced by the Health and Safety Executive or the local authority, under various pieces of health and safety legislation. Some examples are precautions relating to:

storage of flammable liquids

ventilation systems to dilute or remove flammable gas or vapour

selecting equipment that will not be a source of ignition

maintenance of electrical equipment

How to Use this Guide

39. The remaining chapters in this guide provide information on the assessment of fire risk, the reduction of risk and identification and implementation of fire safety measures. It is not necessary to follow the risk assessment method in this guide or the fire safety measures; other suitable methods and measures may be appropriate.

40. The fire safety measures described in this guide are principally benchmarks. When deciding what fire safety measures are appropriate for premises, the benchmarks can be used as a comparison against what exists in the premises. The benchmarks should not be applied prescriptively to premises, they are not minimum standards nor are they provisions that are deemed to satisfy the legislation. In each case, the measures adopted should be risk appropriate for the particular circumstances in which they are applied. A standard lower than the benchmark may be adequate, in other cases a standard above the benchmark may be necessary. The assessment of risk needs to be specific to the individual premises.

41. If persons feel unable to interpret this guidance, they should seek assistance from someone with technical knowledge. The SFRS as an enforcer of the legislation, cannot undertake a dutyholder’s risk assessment obligation. But it has a statutory requirement to provide general advice on request about issues relating to fire safety and should be able to provide information and advice which will assist dutyholders to understand their obligations under the law.

42. While the principal purpose of this guide is to provide guidance to assist dutyholders comply with their legal obligations, the guide and its contents constitute guidance given by the Scottish Ministers to the SFRS in terms of section 61(2) of the 2005 Act and the SFRS is therefore required to take it into account in determining whether enforcement action may be necessary. In its enforcement function, the SFRS is also required to have regard to the Scottish Regulators’ Strategic Code of Practice.

43. Where an enforcement officer considers that additional fire safety measures are necessary in premises, this decision should be based on risk, taking likely cost benefit into account. It will assist the awareness of dutyholders if enforcement officers explain why the existing fire safety measures are not acceptable, and how additional fire safety measures will deliver improvement.

44. Nothing in this guide should be interpreted as permitting a reduction in the standard of fire safety measures where the measures have been incorporated to comply with Building Regulations. But it is possible for a standard higher than that required by Building Regulations to be necessary as a consequence of assessment of risk.

45. From October 2013, a Fire Safety Design Summary is recorded as part of the building regulation process. This may be a useful source of information to assist dutyholders with the safe operation of the premises and to inform the assessment of fire risk.


Email: Linda White

Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road

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