Last Updated on 27 August 2019.
The Government wants your feedback on the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
Here’s what it’s about, why you should have your say and how you can.
The public consultation ends on Wednesday 31st July. So, if you’ve got an opinion on fire safety, now’s the time to act! Equally, if you’re confused about your requirements relating to fire safety then this is your chance to voice that concern. The Government wants to know what you find difficult and what is unclear so they can work to rectify it.
Who Should Take Part?
Before we begin, let’s first look at who this governmental review is for…
You should be reading this if you fall into any of the below categories:
1. You are the ‘Responsible Person’ in your premises.
That is, you are the owner, occupier or person in control of the premises. This includes buildings which have common parts (e.g. multi-occupancy residential buildings), so this also applies to landlords (or housing providers), managing agents and facilities/site/building managers.
2. You are a ‘Fire Safety Professional’.
You work in the fire industry or affiliated industries and therefore have knowledge, experience and understanding of fire safety requirements, as well as current successes and limitations. For example, you could be a Fire Risk Assessor, a Fire Alarm Specialist or a Fire Safety Consultant.
3. You are a member or representative of an ‘Enforcing Authority’.
Such as a member of your area’s local Fire & Rescue Service, or even if you’re part of a group which lobbies and raises awareness of fire safety issues.
4. You are a ‘Relevant Person’.
You’re a ‘relevant person’ if you’re ‘lawfully on, or in the vicinity of, said premises and whose safety must be considered in a Fire Risk Assessment’. That includes employees, contractors (residents if it’s a multi-occupied residential building, as they’ll be using the communal areas) and any other users who are likely to enter the premises, such as customers and visitors.
In short, this is important for you if:
a) you’re responsible for fire safety
b) you work in the fire industry, or
c) you are affected by fire safety
Now we know who it’s for, here’s for a bit of context…
What is the Fire Safety Order?
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 outlines fire safety procedures, including minimum requirements, for non-domestic premises.
Enforced from October 2006, the Order replaced and consolidated more than 100 pieces of fire safety legislation with the aim of simplifying the law for business owners and ‘Responsible Persons’, as part of the wider focus to reduce fires, as well as death, injury and damage caused by fire-related incidents.
The Order applies to premises within England and Wales; both Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own individual legislation relating to fire safety. (This ‘Call for Evidence’, however, is only for non-domestic properties located in England.)
What are the Main Requirements of the Fire Safety Order?
The Fire Safety Order places great emphasis on the ‘Responsible Person’ (outlined above, but we’ve got even more information about that here) and the duties they must undertake to both remove and reduce risk within their premises.
A focal duty of the ‘Responsible Person’ is to ensure the building has an up-to-date Fire Risk Assessment (if the building contains 5 or more people at any given time), which reflects its current state and occupancy (read more about Fire Risk Assessments here). The frequency is not set in stone within the provisions of the current Fire Safety Order (it states it should be done periodically) but the general consensus is to carry out a Fire Risk Assessment on an annual basis, and following any structural works or changes, such as a refurbishment or extension.
An equally important duty is to carry out the recommended works as stipulated in the risk assessor’s report following a Fire Risk Assessment. Doing so demonstrates due diligence and that you’ve taken all necessary action to remove and reduce risk of a fire, and therefore damage to the building and harm to its inhabitants.
There is a wide misconception that having a Fire Risk Assessment is enough to be legally compliant.
You must also carry out the recommendations outlined in the Fire Risk Assessment’s report to show that you have righted any wrongs relating to fire safety within your building.
Then you’ve got to maintain that standard of fire safety, and continue to have annual Fire Risk Assessments that will raise any new red flags which need addressing.
If the Fire & Rescue Service carry out a spot-check, or if there is a fire and the cause of the fire is investigated, it is the ‘Responsible Person’ who is liable to answer a) why did the building not have an up-to-date Fire Risk Assessment? Or b) why did you not carry out the recommended works to remove and reduce risk of a fire, as specified in your Fire Risk Assessment?
This really is the tip of the iceberg; the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order includes much more than this. However, the emphasis on the ‘Responsible Person’ and the importance of Fire Risk Assessments are key takeaways to remember for business owners and anyone in control of a non-domestic premises.
What Type of Premises Does the Fire Safety Order Apply To?
The Order does not include private homes; it only applies to commercial and non-domestic premises, such as:
Places of worship
Why is the Order under Review?
Like many forms of legislation, it’s important to undertake periodical reviews to evaluate its efficacy and relevance, whilst also seeking to listen to and understand public opinion (after all, it’s us who are affected!).
This call for evidence is the Government’s first step to deciphering if the Order is still ‘fit for purpose’ and complements their consultation, ‘Building a Safer Future’, which looks at residents’ fire safety in their homes.
The Grenfell tragedy of 2017 has undoubtedly been a contributing factor as the Government now seeks to find answers and provide solutions that will ensure it does not happen again.
So, what we say here will impact the Government’s decisions and considerations on fire safety.
It could mean amendments will be made to the existing order, or additions will be made.
It could even result in the drafting of a whole new Order.
But first we need to see how large the gap is between what is and what it needs to be.
How to Have Your Say
Step 1: Download the form.
Read and fill in the applicable areas of the Call for Evidence form.
There are 5 sections and 51 questions in total, the majority of which offer ‘yes’ and ‘no’ options, with a prompt to explain your choice.
You can answer as many or as few questions as you would like, and provide as little or as much detail as you would prefer. Obviously, the more you answer and the more detail the better, but the important thing is you contribute. After all, it’s our opportunity to have our say and influence future governmental policy relating to fire safety.
Step 2: Send it off!
The consultation ends at 11.45pm on Wednesday 31st July, so make sure you’ve submitted your answers by then!
If you’ve filled it out using the word document version we provided, or printed it and scanned in your answers, then you can email it to: FireSafetyUnitconsultations@homeoffice.gov.uk.
Alternatively, you can post the filled-in document to:
Fire Safety Unit
2 Marsham Street
Step 3: Spread the word!
Click on the your favourite social media channel using the links below and share with us (and everyone else) that you’ve had your say in this all-important fire safety consultation!
Thanks for reading! We’ll be sure to update you once we know more about the findings, implications and actions following the consultation.
This post is dedicated to the nation’s Fire & Rescue teams who work tirelessly every day to save lives and improve fire safety.