What you should know about the
Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety)
If you hold a position of responsibility in almost any premises in England or Wales, this relatively new piece of legislation could have important implications for you. The origional document, is nearly 80 pages long, but CFS Fire & Security customers will be pleased to know that we have outlined the most important points for you on this page. Our summary is not supposed to be a replacement for reading the original document, but we understand that lengthy legal documents can be confusing, so we hope that our guide provides you with a handy and friendlier overview.
Who is responsible?
On all premises there will be a "responsible person", who must carry out the provisions of the Order. In almost all cases, this is the employer and/or owner of the workplace or premises. Anybody who has any degree of control over the premises or a part of the premises can be designated a "responsible person". If this person is you, then you need to consider what you can do to protect yourself and the others using the premises from the risk of fire.
Where are we affected?
Practically all premises in England and Wales, other than those that operate solely as a single private dwelling (e.g. houses) are required to comply with this legislation. This will include your workplace.
Most previous major Acts legislating on fire safety have been repealed and replaced with this single document. One of the important changes is that you now have to consider everyone who might be on the premises, including employees, visitors and members of the public. You should give particular consideration to ensuring that people with disabilities are protected to the same extent as people without.
Most of the provisions made in the order come into force in October 2006. That means if you haven't already taken action to comply with the new rules, you need to do so now!
What do I have to do?
The responsible person must observe a number of duties laid out in the legislation. These are:
Take general fire precautions
Take measures to reduce the risk of fire
Take measures to reduce the likelihood of fire spreading
Ensure a safe and effective means of escape from fire
Provide means to fight fire.
Provide means to detect fire and to alert all people in the building to its presence
Do a risk assessment
Make a sufficient assessment of the risks posed to all people on the premises
This should identify sources of ignition (e.g. heaters, naked flames etc.), sources of fuel (e.g. display material, paper and fabric, stocked products, waste etc.), sources of oxygen (e.g. compressed gases, natural ventilation, forced air circulation etc.)
It should identify the people at risk (e.g. those working near to fire hazards, those working alone or in isolated areas, children, parents, elderly, infirm and disabled people etc.)
Review the risk assessment regularly, and especially , when there is reason to believe the risks present may have changed (e.g. if the premises have been rearranged or extended, or the organisation of work has changed)
Record the information gained from the risk assessment, if five or more people are employed on the premises
Make fire safety arrangements and equip the premises
Make arrangements to plan, monitor and review the measures taken to reduce the risks that were highlighted in the risk assessment
Give effect to those arrangements
Ensure that the arrangements are appropriate, given the size of the premises and the activities that take place there.
The minimum requirement will include a fire detection and warning system that is able to warn everyone at risk in all circumstances, a way of fighting a small fire, and a suitable way to evactuate everybody, safely and quickly, from the premises. Note that larger premises, or premises where activities are carried out that increase the dangers posed by fire will need considerably more than this bare minimum.
Record the fire safety arrangements, if five or more people are employed on the premises
Equip the premises with fire fighting equipment, alarms and fire detectors to a level that is appropriate, given the size of the premises and the activities that take place there
Ensure that any non-automatic fire fighting equipment (e.g. fire extinguishers, fire blankets etc.) is easily accessible, simple to use and indicated by signs
Establish safety drills and procedures that should be followed in an emergency and nominate people to implement the procedures
Arrange contact with the local emergency services as regards to fire fighting, rescue work, first aid and emergency medical care
Provide sufficient escape routes and make sure they are clear and easy to open at all times. Note that emergency exits must open in the direction of escape, be adequately lit, even when normal lighting fails, and that doors, planned for use specifically in emergencies, must not be of the sliding or revolving type.
The government guides below may give you some extra ideas on how best to comply with the new legislation, depending on your individual situation:
Entry level guide - a short guide to making your premises safe from fire
Guide 1 - Offices and shops
Guide 2 - Factories and warehouses
Guide 3 - Sleeping accommodation
Guide 4 - Residential care premises
Guide 5 - Educational premises
Guide 6 - Small and medium places of assembly
Guide 7 - Large places of assembly
Guide 8 - Theatres and cinemas
Guide 9 - Outdoor events
Guide 10 - Healthcare premises
Guide 11 - Transport premises and facilities
Means of escape for disabled people (Supplementary guide)
Read the BFC article interviewing Phil Wright on the Regulatory Reform Order
Set up a maintenance system
Make arrangements to monitor and maintain the facilities, equipment and devices that are used to comply with the fire safety legislation
This should ensure all arrangements made to deal with the risk of fire are up to date and that all equipment used to detect, warn or fight against fire, or protect against fire is kept in good repair and efficient working order
The owner and/or occupier of the premises, if not the responsible person himself, must cooperate with the responsible person to allow maintenance to take place.
Nominate competent persons to help
The responsible person must nominate competent persons to help him in the execution of these duties, and somebody who is under his employment is to be preferred over somebody who is not.
Keep the competent persons nominated to help fully informed about all the measures put into place associated with fire safety and fire risk
The time and means available for those compentent persons must be sufficient for them to fulfil their normal functions within the business as well as their duties with respect to fire safety.
Inform all people on the premises
Inform all employees of the risks identified in the risk assessment
Inform all employees of of the preventative and protective measures taken to mitigate against those risks
Inform all employees of the identities of those "competent persons" nominated to help
Give the above information to the employer(s) of all other people working on the premises (e.g. contractors)
Give adequate safety training to all employees when they are first hired and whenever they are likely to be exposed to new risks or different procedures. (e.g. extension to premises, moving or rearranging premises, changes in the nature of their job, new technology etc.)
Eliminate or reduce risks posed by dangerous substances
If possible, replace the use of a dangerous substance with the use of something safe
Otherwise, control the risk and mitigate the detrimental effects that fire might have on the dangerous substance
Provide anyone in the presence of, or responsible for, dangerous substances with information on how to identify hazards associated with those substances, and on the emergency arrangements pertaining to those substances
Provide an adequate communication and warning system to enable the appropriate response to reduce the risk posed by the substance in an emergency
What do my employees have to do?
Most of the duties outlined in the new fire safety legislation pertain to the responsible person (usually the employer) but there are some general duties that are expected of every employee whilst they are at work.
Inform the responsible person or any of the nominated competent persons of any situation which represented a danger to anyone on the premises, given their level of training and instruction
Inform the responsible person or any of the nominated competent persons of any shortcoming in the current systems and equipment for fire safety.
What happens if I don't comply?
If an accident occurs on the premises, it is possible, even likely, that you will be held legally responsible and could face criminal or civil action for negligence. The Order gives Fire Inspectors and Fire Officers the authority to inspect your premises. If they feel an infringement of the new legislation has occurred they can either:
Close down the premises until action has been taken to rectify the problem, if they believe the infringement of the legislation is serious and dangerous
Or serve you an enforcement notice, which will give you a limited period of time (which could be as little as 28 days) to rectify any problems before further action is taken