Fire safety reforms round up responsibility

New fire safety rules that came into force yesterday mean every company now has to appoint a “responsible person” to ensure the safety of everyone who uses the business premises.

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005  requires “any person who exercises some level of control in premises to take reasonable steps to reduce the risk from fire and ensure occupants can safely escape if a fire does occur”.

This means there has to be an individual tasked with fire safety who will have to carry out checks on fire protection equipment and facilities.

There were approximately 81,500 fires in “non-domestic premises” (places where people work, meet and gather) in England and Wales between 2002 and 2004. As a result, 65 people died and about 3,900 were injured.

The overall economic cost of fire in England and Wales was more than £796m in 2004. This figure includes property losses, fatalities, injuries and lost business.

The minister responsible for the fire and rescue service, Angela Smith, said the new rules removed burdens from business by replacing more than 70 separate pieces of fire safety legislation with a single reform.

“If your premises comply with current fire safety regulations, then the major difference is that the new rules are cheaper and easier to follow especially as, in most cases, you will now been dealing with one regime and one enforcer,” she said.

Iain Cox, chairman of the Chief Fire Officers Association National Fire Safety Committee, said compliance with the new order should be straightforward for those businesses that meet the existing standards.

“Fire and Rescue Services will be carrying out audits to check compliance and where standards are not acceptable they will work with the responsible person to identify a suitable solution,” he said. “Formal enforcement action using notices or the courts is very much a last resort, other than in the most serious of cases.”

The government has published a new, interactive feature on the Fire Gateway website which allows users to self-assess the risk to their premises.

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