As part of the Government’s commitment to reduce death, injury and damage caused by fire, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) reviewed existing fire safety law and made a number of changes through the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order (RRFSO). After lengthy consultations, the draft Order finally received parliamentary approval on 7th June 2005 and came into force on 1st October 2006.
The three main objectives were;
- To simplify, rationalise and consolidate the existing fire safety legislation into one set of regulations thereby reducing the burden on business and the overlap of enforcing authorities
- To align fire safety legislation with health & safety law and reduce prescriptive requirements
- To firmly put the onus for fire safety for people on the “Responsible Person” (owner/occupier/landlord) as a result of the significant findings in the “Fire Risk Assessment” which the Responsible Person has a legal duty to carry out
- The RRFSO applies to England and Wales
- A new legislative regime has been introduced in Scotland which parallels the risk based approach of the RRFSO, the final phase of which came into force in 2006
- In Northern Ireland, equivalent legislation should be effective during 2010
- The RRFSO applies to virtually all premises and nearly every type of building
- Purely domestic premises occupied by a single family group are excluded
The focus of the RRFSO is on fire prevention and protection measures with its greatest emphasis on the risk assessment.
The significant changes were;
- The repealing of over 100 pieces of legislation, most notably the Fire Precautions Act 1971 and the Fire Precautions (Workplace) Regs 1997
- Fire certificates were abolished and cease to have legal status
- A need to appoint a Responsible Person who has to carry out a Fire Risk Assessment; taking steps, as necessary, to reduce or remove the fore risk(s)
Fire Risk Assessments
Fire Risk Assessments are at the heart of this legislation being required in writing where the premises are licensed or the Inspector – a person appointed by the Enforcing Authority (usually a Fire Officer from the local Fire and Rescue Service) – requires it. Whilst there is no set format for how a risk assessment should be laid out, guidance and sample layouts are available through local fire authorities, the DCLG and the Fire Protection Association.
The main responsibility for implementing and complying with the Order rests with a designated Responsible Person and who takes full corporate liability; usually the owner of a premises or someone with control over the premises. Generally the owner will have the principal responsibility but others may also have an interest e.g. in multi-tenanted buildings, landlord/tenant arrangements.
The most important duty of the Responsible Person is to make a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment and where there is more than one Responsible Person, they must take all reasonable steps to co-operate and work with each other.
The Responsible Person must:
- Asses the risk of fires
- Consider who may be especially at risk
- Take steps to reduce or remove the risks
- Satisfy specific requirements; e.g. the provision of an adequate means of escape, appropriate signs and notices, emergency lighting on escape routes, appropriate fire fighting and detection equipment
- Take steps to ensure that any substances on the premises are safe
- Carry out effective planning, organisation, control, monitoring and review of fire safety arrangements
- Provide information to all occupants and visitors relating to identified risks, preventative measures and the identity of the Responsible Person
- Co-operate and co-ordinate with other persons sharing the premises
- Appoint one or more "Competent Persons" to help comply with the conditions of the Fire Safety Order
The order indicates that the Responsible Person must appoint one or more Competent Persons to assist in the undertaking of preventative and protective measures. In order to be "competent" the person must have sufficient training, knowledge and experience. This could be an external person or organisation.
- Fire authorities are the main enforcing authority in most cases and they can issue Enforcement Notices and Prohibition Notices.
- Prosecutable offences will include a fine or up to two years imprisonment
- Except in the most serious cases, the fire authority will work with you and provide practical advice to help achieve a satisfactory level of fire safety
Key Action Steps
- Read the RRFSO
- Read the appropriate Guidance Document(s) which are available to download from the DCLG website
- Carry out a Fire Risk Assessment
- Appoint a Competent Person to help undertake preventative and protective measures
- Record the finding of the assessment
- Effectively communicate to others the risks identified together with the prevention and protective measures in place
- Maintain Fire Precautions
- Ensure fire protection systems are of good quality, fit the purpose and are well maintained by third party certificated companies
- Regularly review the Risk Assessment and revise it where necessary