Regulatory Reform

The document ‘Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order’ was prepared for our customers as an introduction to fire safety legislation changes that are due to come into force in April 2006. These changes will affect all non-domestic premises. Updates to our understanding of the transition into the new legislation will be posted where appropriate. Look out for the ‘RRFSO News’ postings on the left of this page.

Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) has invoked a Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order (RRFSO) which will have a profound effect on the way fire safety matters are handled within the contract market.  The RRFSO is intended to come into force on 1st April 2006.  However, a statement from the ODPM has indicated that;

It is clear that all the guidance documents will not be ready for a full 12 week gap between publication and coming into force on 1 April 2006. In the light of the commitments we have given to the House and our commitment to ensuring this reform is properly backed, we have therefore concluded that the coming into force of the substantive provisions of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order should be put back.”

The Scottish Authorities announced that more time should be allowed for reform and the new rules in Scotland are now expected to come into force in October 2006 at the earliest

The current situation (prior to the RRFSO being introduced):   Fire safety for ‘Contract Installations’ (Offices, Hotels, Public Areas in general etc.) will remain the responsibility of Fire Officers who, having inspected a building, will specify the level of fire risk and indicate the level of fire testing that will be required for, amongst other things, furniture and furnishings within the installation.  When these requirements have been met, the local Fire Authority will issue a Fire Certificate for the building.

The situation after the RRFSO comes into force:   The following section contains extracts from the web site of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (which can be found at http://www.odpm.gov.uk/index.asp?id=1124877).

Once the order comes into force, fire certificates will be abolished and will cease to have legal status.  Compliance with the RRFSO will reside with a ‘Responsible Person’ within the organisation occupying a building.  In a workplace this would be the employer or any other person who may control 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 will have to 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.

What does this mean in practice?   The above section, taken from the web site, whilst laying out the frame work for the new requirements, does not contain the detail we need in order to determine actual procedures that need to be followed once Fire Officers are no longer stipulating fire safety specifications.  As far as we can determine the general scheme of things will be as follows.

As a cautionary note, we have found an instance already where an individual has been prosecuted for failing (in the eyes of the court) to provide adequate fire safety in that they “failed to make a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment”.  This is a warning to all of us as to what might happen when things go wrong.  The links to the particular case are shown below.

http://www.manchesteronline.co.uk/news/s/124/124826_head_admits_fire_safety_breaches.html
http://www.manchesteronline.co.uk/news/s/132/132345_schoolfire_heads_twoyear_nightmare.html

It is clear that following the RRFSO introduction in April 2006 there will be more questions than answers within all sectors of business that are affected.  It was like this back in 1988 when domestic fire safety legislation was introduced.  We remember it well and are aware of the uncertainties that will prevail within the industry.  As in 1988, we will do everything we can to support our customers and help them deal with these changes offering help and guidance where we can.  We have taken the first steps along this road by establishing dialogue with organisations that may well influence the successful transition into the new legislation.  The essential lines of dialogue are as follows

Please contact us and we will try to keep you up to date with developments as we understand them.  We will endeavour to post new developments on this matter on our web site.