Fire reform act: who’s responsible?
Many businesses believe that, because they were previously issued with a fire certificate and their circumstances haven’t changed, they are still complying with fire safety law.
But, warns Alan Cox, fire safety consultant and author of the Workplace Law publication, Fire Safety 2009: Special Report, this isn’t the case, and fire certificates are “not worth the paper they were written on”.
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 repeals the Fire Precautions Act 1971, meaning that fire certificates have ceased to have legal status. Instead the new legislation takes a risk-based, preventative approach to fire safety placing the responsibility for fire safety within a building or premises on the employer or ‘Responsible Person’.
A review by the department of Communities and Local Government of the Fire Safety Order earlier this year revealed that only around 60% of businesses were aware of the FSO, but non-compliance can result in prosecution (see opposite page).
The responsible person
The Responsible Person must make fire safety arrangements appropriate to the size and occupancy of their premises.
They may be the employer and any other person who may have control of any part of the premises; for example the occupier or owner. In all other premises the person or people in control of the premises will be responsible.
Responsible persons must plan, organise, control, monitor and review the preventive and protective measures, including:
- Eliminate or reduce the potential from dangerous substances to cause harm to the relevant persons, including ensuring appropriate exits and routes are available from danger areas, and establishing effective procedures which also address specific information on mitigating the effect of a fire, restoring the situation to normal, and informing anyone who may be affected;
- Provide firefighting equipment, including portable extinguishers, hose reels and sprinklers where appropriate.
- Fire detection and/or alarm system, the type and extent of the fire alarm subject to the requirements of the risk assessment.
- Emergency doors and routes available for immediate use and provided with illumination (including emergency lighting) to allow effective means of escape in case of fire.
- Effective signage for emergency routes.
- Fire protection equipment maintained to ensure its effective operation at all times.
- Equipment for use by firefighters, or for their protection, maintained in efficient order and in good repair.
The Department for Communities and Local Government has prepared a set of 11 guidance documents to help with the preparation of fire risk assessments.
These replace the old Home Office codes of practice and other existing guidance, outlining a number of subject- or industry-specific scenarios that demonstrate how the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRO) might be interpreted in each case.
A pub landlord was fined £4,000 plus £3,984 costs for ten separate breaches of fire safety legislation, when his pub failed to meet the legal standards for fire safety.
The charges were brought under the RRO against Paul Dailey, the proprietor of the George and Dragon public house in Berkshire after a routine inspection by Fire Safety Officers identified serious breaches to the fire safety precautions for the premises.
The owners of a nightclub were fined £4,000 and ordered to pay £975 costs for breaching the RRO after a man suffered serious injuries on a night out. The prosecution is as a result of an incident where a man suffered serious burns on a night out at the nightclub on 23 June 2007.
Fire Risk Assessment checklist
- Do you have a risk assessment recording system?
Firefighting and Fire Detection
- Do you have appropriate firefighting equipment on your premises?
- Is your firefighting equipment clearly identified and locatable?
- Do all employees know which firefighting equipment to use on different types of fire?
- Do you have nominated people who are trained to an acceptable level for fire emergencies?
Emergency Escape Routes
- Do all emergency routes and exits lead as directly as possible to a place of safety?
- Are everyone’s needs catered for in the event of an emergency escape situation?
- Are all emergency routes and exits clearly identified by illumination and emergency lighting?
Procedures for serious and imminent danger and for danger areas
- Is access to dangerous areas restricted to authorised personnel only?
- Are all authorised persons given (so far as practical) equipment to protect them from the danger risk?
- Are all dangerous substances clearly identified and relevant safety data sheets provided prior to work?
- Are all dangerous substances kept in the appropriate storage?
- Is all firefighting equipment fully maintained and serviced with written documentation?
Provision of information for employers
- Can the responsible person provide comprehensive and relevant information of the risks to employees as identified by the risk assessment?
- Are all outside employees given the relevant information on the risk of a fire and the preventive and protective measures within the premises?
- Have all employees been given adequate safety/refresher training at a time when they are first employed?
- Has all training been officially recorded?