According to new survey findings, 90% of small businesses across the UK are unaware of their legal responsibility to conduct a fire-risk assessment on their premises.

The study, carried out by risk-assessment provider FireUK, found that the majority of business owners in Britain were not aware of this vital health and safety requirement. In fact, the majority of smaller firms questioned did not even have anybody on site in charge of fire safety.

In order to collate this research, 580 owners of restaurants, pubs, takeaways and office-based businesses were surveyed over the telephone.

Small businesses are ‘playing with fire’

FireUK spokesman Mark Hall said: “We are shocked to the core by these figures. We thought we would find a few companies that fell outside the law, not whole sectors of small businesses playing Russian roulette with people’s lives.

“The fact that some pubs don’t know the law is terrifying. They are playing with fire, quite literally. There’s a huge blind spot among business owners who don’t know where their responsibilities lie.”

The results have been attributed to a mixture of ignorance, confusion and neglect. Excuses given by businesses for not carrying out fire risk assessments included: not having enough staff, thinking these laws only applied to big companies, and believing that by renting a premises rather than owning it meant they were somehow exempt.

What are the legal requirements?

By law, all employers, business owners and landlords are required to take responsibility for fire safety in the workplace.

In order to do this, somebody must be assigned to the role of carrying out fire reviews in order to identify risks and put safety measures in place.

Businesses failing to do this are running the risk of incurring fines or, in some cases, even prison sentences.