Business owners are responsible for the maintenance of their space and for ensuring the business operates with respect to fire safety.
Definition of Owner
The Ontario Fire Code defines “owner” as any person, firm or corporation having control over any portion of the building or property under consideration and includes the person in the building or property. Therefore, whether a business owner owns the building, or simply operates a business within a building, business owners have obligations with respect to fire safety for which they can be held accountable.
The Fire Protection and Prevention Act (FPPA) allows a fire prevention officer to enter and inspect without a warrant any land or premise for the purpose of assessing fire safety. The power to enter and inspect can be exercised at all reasonable times.
The Ontario Fire Code is recognized as a minimum standard to which buildings and businesses must adhere. In every inspection, compliance with the Ontario Fire Code is a fire department’s ultimate goal. Once a building or business is recognized by a Fire Prevention Officer to be in contravention of the Ontario Fire Code, the officer will issue an order or an inspection report identifying the offence and a date by which the deficiency must be remedied.
The Ontario Fire Code is a provincial regulation. All fire departments in Ontario are expected to enforce the Fire Code. However, municipalities have the right to pass by-laws that may be different from one municipality to the next. For example, many municipalities have by-laws pertaining to open air burning and to the use and sale of fireworks.
Violations and Consequences
Sometimes, the severity of the offence or the tendency of the business or building to be continually out of compliance causes the fire department to pursue penalties under the Provincial Offences Act by means of issuing a ticket, or by serving a summons requiring a person or business to appear in Provincial Offences Court.
In these cases, if found guilty of a contravention of the Ontario Fire Code, a person or a director of a corporation can be liable to a fine up to $50,000. The corporation can be liable to a fine of up to $100,000.
The time frame for compliance depends on the nature of the work that needs to be completed and the urgency with respect to fire and life safety. Typically smoke alarm and carbon monoxide (CO) alarm deficiencies are required to be remedied the same day the infraction has been noted by the officer. However, if the work requires any kind of construction, a building permit may be required by the owner. The time frame for compliance will reflect a period of time the officer considers reasonable to complete the work including obtaining a building permit.
It’s vital to keep records when tests or corrective measures required by the Fire Code are carried out, such as:
- Annual inspections of smoke and CO alarms
- Emergency lighting tests
- Fire alarm annual inspections
- Sprinkler annual inspections
- Portable extinguisher annual inspections
- Commercial kitchen suppression system six-month inspection
A copy of the records must be maintained at the building for examination by the fire department if requested. Records of maintenance, checks, tests and inspections like those listed above must be maintained for at least two years after being prepared.
Fire Safety Plans
The Ontario Fire Code, Div. B, Section 2.8 provides for the required preparation, approval and implementation of a fire safety plan for most buildings and occupancies.