Legal reform aimed at simplifying the fire safety process, while at the same time placing a greater onus on businesses to carry out fire risk assessments, has been approved by the House of Lords.
A leading spokesperson, speaking for the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, told the Lords recently that the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 amounted to the “biggest reform” of fire safety legislation in over 30 years.
“It will simplify the process for thousands of businesses,” it said. “It is an enhancement of public safety and removes a substantial burden from business.”
The Regulatory Reform Order, which will amend and consolidate around 79 pieces of legislation relating to fire safety, has now completed its parliamentary process.
However, the changes will not come into effect until Oct 2006, originally scheduled for April 2006 to allow time for the Government to produce considerable guidance for those affected by the Order, including businesses, fire and rescue services and local authorities.
One of the main features of the reforms will be for those responsible for mainly non-domestic premises to be required to undertake a “suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks”.
Fire certificates will be abolished and have no legal status. Thus putting more onus on businesses to undertake Fire Risk Assessment.
The new, Fire risk-assessment based regime requires those persons responsible for premises used by the public (including the self-employed and employees) to take action to prevent fires, and protect against death and injury should a fire occur.
This is the same duty currently imposed on employers by the Fire Precautions (Workplace) Regulations 1997, but under the new Order the duty will be extended beyond workplaces to include the majority of premises to which people have access.
To support the Order, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) will be publishing a suite of eleven guidance documents. They will give advice on most types of premises where the duty to undertake a fire safety risk assessment under the Order applies.
Even guides will address the following categories of premises:
• Offices and shops
• Premises providing sleeping accommodation
• Residential care premises
• Small and medium places of assembly
• Large places of assembly
• Factories and warehouses
• Theatres and cinemas
• Educational premises
• Healthcare premises
• Transport interchanges
• Open air events.
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