Getting to Grips with the new Fire Regulations

Getting to Grips with the new Fire Regulations

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 rumbles on out into the business community and increasingly solicits frantic enquiries as to what it entails and how to conform. Now any small business out there can get hold of a copy and read it.
Visit  www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si2005/20051541.htm#53 but be warned it is not an easy read.

Here’s a typical clause from the section explaining the “Duties under the Order”.
(3) Any duty imposed by articles 8 to 22 or by regulations made under article 24 on the responsible person in respect of premises shall also be imposed on every person, other than the responsible person referred to in paragraphs (1) and (2), who has, to any extent, control of those premises so far as the requirements relate to matters within his control. ”
Simples!!!

You should also be mindful of the virtually limitless powers afforded the fire inspectors under the act. I quote from article 27  “Powers of inspectors” where ” (1) Subject to the provisions of this article, an inspector may do anything necessary for the purpose of carrying out this Order and any regulations made under it into effect and in particular, so far as may be necessary for that purpose, shall have power to do (so) at any reasonable time.”

This was driven home in no uncertain manner when this July the authorities prosecuted the Church of the Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministries International (I could not have made this up) who they “raided”, no better word for it, during a Church Service for 1200 penitent souls, and threw the book at them for breaches of the RRO to the tune of a £30000 fine.  A case of too much fire and damnation no doubt.

To help clarify the key provisions I will post a series of tips that will guide you through. To start with you must conduct a formal fire risk assessment. A fire risk assessment helps you identify all the fire hazards and risks in your business premises. The Act does not apply to domestic residences.

You can then decide whether any risks identified are acceptable or whether you need to do something to reduce and or control them. A risk assessment should be carried out by someone who has reasonable experience or knowledge of fire safety. In the RRO’s parlance this could be the Responsible Person or a trained member of staff or external consultant.

There are five basic steps to complete a Risk Assessment.
1. Identify the fire hazards – smokers, machinery, fuel stores, hot plates, heaters, electrical equipment etc
2. Identify people at risk – employees, customers, visitors
3. Evaluating the risks – decide how best to minimise and or control a fire and safeguard those at risk should it occur – typically staff training, means of escape, fire warning bells, fire fighting equipment , signage etc.
4. Record your findings – and put in a safe place with you other health and safety documentation. The inspectors will home in on this as a first step in assessing compliance. The requirement to record your assessment technically applies to businesses employing 5 or more people but I advise you do it anyway.
5. Review and revise – revise the Risk Assessment to record fire equipment maintenance schedules, changes to office layouts, training sessions, new fire safety equipment and added fire risks.

Having completed the Risk Assessment you must then take appropriate actions in line with your findings, putting in place safety management procedures, fire prevention and fire control measures.  If you have a particular concern or question regarding the interpretation of the RRO post it here and we will try and help.

Tony

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