Under new Government legislation, responsibility for complying with fire safety law will rest with a ‘responsible person’. This could be the employer, business owner or senior manager. If you don’t comply with the new regulations you could be prosecuted with the maximum penalty being 2 years in jail.  The new law means a much greater emphasis on fire prevention and businesses need to be taking steps NOW to identify and deal with fire risks. Steve Manchester of Buildings Research Establishment explains the new requirements.As part of a commitment to reduce death, injury and damage caused by fire, the Government has reviewed current fire safety law and is making a number of changes through the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRFSO) which will become law on 1st October 2006.

 The main effect of the changes will be a move towards greater emphasis on fire prevention in all non-domestic premises – for offices, shops, factories, leisure and other buildings. Fire certificates will be abolished and will cease to have legal status and responsibility for complying with the law will rest with the 'responsible person’ – and if you don’t comply, you could ultimately be prosecuted which means that businesses and building owners need to take action now.  The role of the fire and rescue service will also change as they become enforcers of the new regulations

 As part of the requirements to comply withthe Order, the ‘responsible person’ is required to

carry out a fire risk assessment of the premises.   In doing this you must: -

1)  identify the significant findings of the risk assessment and the details of anyone who might be especially at risk in case of fire

2)   record the significant findings if you employ more than five people

3)   provide and maintain such fire precautions as are necessary to safeguard those who use your workplace

4)   provide information, instruction and training to your employees about the fire precautions in your workplace.

 A properly carried out fire risk assessment will help you decide the nature and extent of the fire precautions which you need to take. There is a general requirement to reduce the risk to a level which is as low as reasonably practicable.

Fire Risk Assessments must also consider all your employees and all other people including contractors, visitors etc who may be affected by a fire in the workplace and you are required to make adequate provision for any disabled people with special needs who use, or may be present, at your premises. They must not be seen as ‘one off’ exercises and should be kept under review and revised where necessary, for example when the fire risk or hazard may have changed due to alterations to the building, the nature of the work, the number of employees, or changes to the fire safety management processes.

 A series of guides have been produced to assist in the preparation and carrying out of Fire Risk Assessments.  The guides cover the following categories of buildings and work places:

 

  •  Offices and Shops
  •   Premises providing sleeping accommodation
  •   Residential care
  •   Small and medium places of assembly
  •   Large places of assembly
  •   Factories and warehouses
  •   Theatres and cinemas
  •   Educational premises
  •   Healthcare premises (responsibility of the Department of Health)
  •   Transport premises and facilities
  •   Open air events

 Working for the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), BRE has also developed a comprehensive Fire Risk Assessment methodology which is now linked to a series of training courses. We have also introduced a competency scheme to evaluate the performance of ‘would be’ Fire Risk Assessors, so that businesses can ensure that they are using a skilled and qualified fire risk assessor.

 

For further information on this, you can go to www.bre.co.uk/firerisk or telephone (01923) 664883. You can also obtain copies of the guides from the DCLG website at www.firesafetylaw.communities.gov.uk.