New fire safety rules prompt call to employers to carry out risk assessment

The government has urged employers to start thinking about new fire safety responsibilities which come into force in October or face the risk of prosecution.

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 means any employer responsible for “any premises in England and Wales where people gather” will have a duty to ensure the safety of everyone who uses their premises and those in the immediate vicinity who may be at risk if there is a fire.

The legislation covers nearly every type of building, structure and open space except for private homes and individual flats in a block or house, although communal areas will be affected.

Anyone responsible for premises must carry out a fire safety risk assessment by 1 October 2006. The Fire and Rescue Service will carry out inspections and failure to comply could lead to enforcement action or even prosecution.

Angela Smith, minister for the Fire and Rescue Service, said the move would cut red tape and make it quicker and easier to tackle over-complicated regulation.

The head of Her Majesty’s Fire Service Inspectorate, Sir Graham Meldrum, said the new rules would make fire safety law easier to understand by doing away with the existing 70 separate pieces of legislation and replacing them with a new regime focused on preventing fires happening in the first place.

“If you meet your obligations under the current law, the new regime should not cost you anything more and may save you money,” he said.

Legal Q&A on fire safety legislation

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