Regulatory Reform Order

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New fire safety rules affecting all non-domestic premises in England and Wales came into force on 1st October 2006.
If you are:

  •  responsible for business premises
  • an employer or self-employed with business premises
  • responsible for business premises
  • a contractor with a degree of control over any premises

...then you need to act now to ensure you have a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment in place.

The legislation that will bring about these changes is the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order (RRFSO).
Annually within the UK, on average 30 people die and 2000 are seriously injured as a result of fires in workplaces. Besides the loss of life, the damage to property, loss of business, fines, compensation claims and insurance premiums costs the economy over 6.5 billion pounds. It can be the end for small businesses as 75% of businesses that have a fire in their first year of trading never trade again.

As part of the commitment to reduce fire deaths, injuries and the damage caused by fire, the government is changing fire safety legislation. The changes are designed to make the law easier to comply with and easier to understand by reforming and rationalising the current fire safety laws which are contained in over 100 separate pieces of legislation.

The RRFSO revolves around two concepts, the 'Responsible Person' concept, and secondly the 'Risk Assessment' concept. In many respects it is similar to the old Fire Precautions (Workplace) Regulations, but it will apply to more premises, activities and people.

The changes will apply across England and Wales and will affect all non-domestic premises i.e. not your own private home, it will even apply to certain activities taking place outdoors.

What will this mean for you?

The main change will be in emphasis towards risk reduction and fire prevention. Fire certificates have now been abolished and cease to have legal status, although the standards they contain will be a good benchmark for starting a fire risk assessment.

Under the RRFSO the 'responsible person' for each premises will be required to carry out an assessment of the risks from fire and then take steps to reduce or remove that risk so that it is as low as practicable, only then should other fire protection measures be put in place. This approach will aid prevention and may even reduce the need for costly 'Protection Measures' such as fire doors, fires alarms etc.

The risk assessment should be carried out to ensure that suitable fire precautions, maintenance and management measures are in place to ensure the safety of anyone who might use your premises.

The risk assessment process should start at the planning stage before anyone moves into the premises and the fire safety measure identified should cater for the safety of all people throughout the life of the building. The risk assessment will need to be reviewed as time goes by to take account of any changes that may increase the risk or affect the fire safety measures.

How to comply with RRO?

In order to fully comply with the Fire Safety Order, a fire risk assessment must be completed together with providing an efficient and effective recording system to ensure that regular checks are made with regards to Fire Alarms Systems, Emergency Lighting etc. as well as staff training and the ability to monitor and rectify deficiencies (e.g.. broken self closing door devices). HSSmart™ is a proven, online fire safety management system that helps with compliance with fire safety legislation as well as providing fire training for all members of staff and a full audit trail.

Other changes

The RRFSO will also embrace premises covered by other legislation such as the licensing act, irrespective of the license being for alcohol or entertainment.

The difference will be that the Fire and Rescue Authority will be the enforcing authority for general fire precautions within licensed and registered premises. No licensing or registration authority will be able to impose conditions on premises that relate to general fire precautions.

How will it be policed?

It is expected that the responsible person will exercise their duty in implementing and maintaining the required standards, the Fire and Rescue Authority will inspect premises and undertake audits of fire risk assessments and management to enforce the requirements of the Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order but this is will be done on a risk based regime that assumes compliance. All inspection work will be undertaken by the Fire and Rescue Services in accordance with the principles of good enforcement laid down in the Government enforcement concordat.

The Fire and Rescue Authority now target their resources at the premises that are deemed to present to greatest risk to people and the community. This means that premises that present a 'high risk' because they are poorly constructed, poorly managed or have poor fire prevention and protection measures or just because they have an inherent high risk such as a basement night club, will be visited more often than premises that are seen as 'low risk' because they are well constructed, well managed and have adequate fire prevention measures.

More information regarding the new legislation can be found at the website for the Department of Communities & Local Government.

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