Fire Safety

Fire Safety

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 was approved by Parliament on 7 June 2005 and came into force in October 2006.

It replaces all the existing fire safety legislation and will have an impact on all employers, owners, occupiers and self-employed businesses. There are very few exceptions from having to comply with the new regulation's.

It will apply in England and Wales, with Northern Ireland and Scotland having their own laws. It covers 'general fire precautions' and other fire safety duties which are needed to protect 'relevant persons' in case of fire in and around most premises.

Background

Currently there are over 100 pieces of legislation dating from 1947 – 1999 which have an impact on fire safety. Many firms have to comply with one or more of these which can cause confusion and conflict.

To simplify this, industry, the Government and the Fire Services have streamlined all the legislation into one document. It is a much simpler piece of legislation to follow. It firmly places the responsibility for all fire safety matters with not only the employer, but also the owner of a building (who may not be the employer) and the employees.

Key issues

The main effect of the changes will be a move towards greater emphasis on fire prevention in all non-domestic premises, including the voluntary sector and self-employed people with premises separate from their homes.

Fire certificates will be abolished and will cease to have legal status.

The Order requires fire precautions to be put in place where necessary and as far as is reasonable and practicable in the circumstances of the case. Responsibility for complying with the Fire Safety Order rests with the 'responsible person'.

In a workplace, this is the employer and any other person who may have control of any part of the premises, e.g. the occupier or owner. In all other premises the person or people in control of the premises will be responsible. If there is more than one responsible person in any type of premises, all must take all reasonable steps to work with each other.

If you are the responsible person you must carry out a fire risk assessment which must focus on the safety in case of fire of all 'relevant persons'. It should pay particular attention to those at special risk, such as the disabled and those with special needs, and must include consideration of any dangerous substance likely to be on the premises.

Your fire risk assessment will help you identify risks that can be removed or reduced and to decide the nature and extent of the general fire precautions you need to take to protect people against the fire risks that remain.

If you employ five or more people you must record the significant findings of the assessment.

Frequently asked questions

What does the change mean in practice?

Essentially the responsibility will be for the occupier of a building to "risk assess" the fire safety measures. Where the occupier rents accommodation, then both the owner and the occupier will have to liaise to ensure the building is safe from fire.

I have a Fire Certificate. How will the Fire Safety Order affect it?

A Fire Certificate is not a dynamic document. A business may have been issued a certificate as far back as 1971. When it was issued it reflected the fire safety standards of the day. However, although the building, use and workforce may not have changed, the standards have.

Therefore, Fire and Rescue Services could not have required the business to upgrade their fire alarm system or install extra fire fighting equipment, etc. even though it may have been beneficial for all concerned. The new Fire Safety Order is dynamic.

My Fire Certificate was recently issued and I have upto-date systems. How will the NEW Order affect it?

Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service must continue to issue fire certificates until October 2006. Occasionally some insurance companies insist their clients have a fire certificate, but from 1st October 2006, they will no longer have any legal standing. Many firms have indicated that they will be retaining the existing certificate and using it as a benchmark when formulating their Fire Risk Assessment. This is a good practice, but you should be aware that higher standards may now apply.

I do not have a Fire Certificate but conform to the Fire Precautions (Workplace) Regulation's. What is the difference?

The Workplace Regulation's essentially protected the employees. The new Fire Safety Order will encompass:

"Any person (including the responsible person) who maybe lawfully on the premises and any person in the immediate vicinity of the premises who is at risk from a fire on the premises".

It also requires more premises to carry out a Fire Risk Assessment e.g. a self-employed person will have to produce a written fire risk assessment.

Will its implementation cost me anything?

Maybe! If your fire safety standards do not reflect your environment, working practices, protection of employees,etc. then the Fire Safety Order may require better fire safety standards. Conversely, with a robust fire risk assessment, fire routines, work practices and staff training, you may actually be able to save money.

The five steps of fire risk assessment

STEP 1

Identify fire hazards

  • Sources of ignition
  • Sources of fuel
  • Sources of oxygen

STEP 2

Identify people especially at risk

  • Members of staff
  • People not familiar with the premises
  • People working alone

STEP 3

Evaluate, remove, reduce and protect from risks

Measures to prevent fires

  • Evaluate the risk of a fire occurring
  • Evaluate the risk to people from fire
  • Remove or reduce the fire hazards
  • Remove or reduce the risks to people

Measures to protect people from fire

  • Detecting and warning
  • Fire fighting
  • Escape routes
  • Lighting
  • Signs and notices
  • Maintenance

STEP 4

Record, plan, instruct inform and train

  • Record significant findings and actions taken
  • Prepare an emergency plan
  • Inform relevant people, provide instruction, co-operative and co-ordinate with others
  • Provide training

STEP 5

Review

  • Keep assessment under review
  • Revise where necessary

Further advice and support

A series of guides are being produced to help people preparing fire risk assessments; these give detailed information on risk assessments and other issues. They are being published on the Department for Communities and Local Government website (external link).

The guides include:

1. Offices and Shops

2. Premises providing Sleeping Accommodation

3. Residential Care

4. Small and Medium Places of Assembly

5. Large Places of Assembly

6. Factories and Warehouses

7. Theatres and Cinemas

8. Educational Premises

9. Healthcare Premises (responsibility of the Department of Health)

10. Transport Premises and Facilities

11. Open Air Events