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More than 500 people die in fire related scenarios a year in the UK!!

Over 80% of businesses that suffer the consequences of a fire never trade again!!!
On 1st October 2006, Fire Safety Law saw what was probably the most significant change in 30 years when, the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 was introduced

Under the new Order the stated aim is to simplify, rationalise and consolidate the law with respect to fire safety in buildings in use. For example it amends more than 120 different items of primary legislation which refer to fire safety, including the Fire Precautions Act 1971 that cease to have effect. This means that any fire certificate issued by the Fire & Rescue Service no longer has any validation.

The new legislation now places a duty upon the ‘Responsible Person’ to ensure the safety of employees and members of the public that are at their premises.

The responsible person is defined as meaning, ‘the employer, if the workplace is to any extent under his/her control’ or where this does not apply, the occupier as ‘the person who has control of the premises’ or the owner ‘where the person in control of the premises does not have control… of a trade, business or other undertaking’.

This means that just about every commercial premises in the UK, need to comply in a self regulatory manner with the duties of that position.

The Responsible Person has the following duties:

· Carry out, record, and implement the conclusions of a risk assessment, equipping the premises with appropriate firefighting equipment and with detectors and alarms, and providing suitable emergency routes and exits.

· Take general fire precautions;

  1. to reduce the risk and spread of fire;
  2. for escape;
  3. to ensure the escape route can be used at all times
  4. to detect fire and warn people of a fire; and
  5. for training staff.

· Take special precautions where dangerous substances are present so as to eliminate or reduce the fire risk

· Take particular matters into account when employing young people and identify in the risk assessment those people especially at risk

· Ensure that employees, parents of children employed, and others at the premises have relevant fire safety information – including details of dangerous substances at the premises – and that employees have adequate safety training and understand the evacuation procedures.

· Maintain a sufficient number of ‘competent persons’ to assist in implementing preventative and protective measures, including safety drills

· Maintain all fire safety equipment; and

· Review the risk assessment when necessary.

The opinion of the chairman of the Passive Fire Protection Federation, ‘Get the required fire risk assessment wrong or ignore the requirement then lives will be endangered and businesses put at risk’, that ‘insurances will be void’.
‘Ultimately those responsible will be personally and criminally liable’.

Those businesses large enough to employ their own in-house fire prevention experts will probably be fine but it is unlikely that small and medium-sized businesses (which make up most of this country’s businesses) will have the expertise to comply with the Order, that is, if they have even heard of it.

There has been very little coverage or advice given, and the Government’s efforts have been late in coming, comprising of a ‘flyer’ and a 140 page document to download.

The new fire safety law brings new responsibilities to businesses of all sizes, those who are not compliant face prosecution. Few people in the workplace could be expected to have the expertise to competently carry out a Fire Risk Assessment based upon those requirements listed above.

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