Fire Doctor: Navigating the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005
The Fire Safety Order 2005 was a game-changing piece of legislation in the fire prevention world.
Making fire-risk assessments the responsibility of building owners or managers, the legislation caused considerable apprehension among end users – and still does nearly a decade later.
Len Manning of Hochiki Europe, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of fire detection products, has kindly sought to assuage some typical concerns raised by facilities managers and others responsible for arranging fire-risk assessments.
Has the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRFSO) improved levels of fire safety since it was introduced?
Len Manning, Hochiki Europe: The answer is very simple – yes.
For those new to the industry, the RRFSO was introduced to simplify, rationalise and consolidate the law on fire safety in buildings. Previously, there were nearly 100 regional and national acts and statutory instruments regarding fire safety provision, some of which were inconsistent or out-of-date.
When it became law on 1 October 2006, the RRFSO 2005 represented a major step change in protecting occupants within buildings. The requirement for a dedicated ‘responsible person’ or team that ensures that premises are risk assessed and that any installed life safety equipment is fully maintained and fit for purpose, has been one of the most important pieces of legislation in recent times.
Does being a responsible person require specialist knowledge?
Not necessarily. However, it does require a certain level of understanding about the causes of fire, how to prevent it and what to do in the event of an emergency.
When it comes to carrying out a risk assessment, a responsible person or member of the premises management team can complete a suitable training course. Alternatively, there are a number of professionals who can do this on your behalf. If you use external resources to conduct a risk assessment that you will be responsible for, you should satisfy yourself that they are suitably competent and qualified to conduct it.
It sounds as if the RRFSO has made fire prevention and safety uniform across all types of premises. Is this so?
While in theory there should be the same rigorous and thorough approach to assessing risk and the potential for danger within any building, this is simply wishful thinking.
Although some individuals wilfully neglect their responsibilities, others are simply unaware of the extent of their duties. While the former are far more overt in their flouting of the law, the fact is that ignorance is just as much of a problem.
In order to address this, far more emphasis is now placed on the role of the responsible person following the tragic events that took place at Rosepark Care Home in South Lanarkshire, when a fire broke out in a cupboard, spread through the building and led directly to the deaths of 14 elderly residents.
Attempts to prosecute the owners for alleged fire safety breaches failed, due to a loophole in the law that meant that as they had dissolved their partnership they could no longer be prosecuted.
However, in November 2012, Lord Wallace introduced a bill to close the loophole and ensure that dissolving a partnership will no longer protect the responsible person from prosecution in such cases.
I have a small business and only employ two people. Does the RRFSO affect me?
Yes – you will need to carry out a risk assessment. The answer would be the same even if you had just one employee.
Should emergency lighting be included in the risk assessment process?
The fire risk assessment will also identify the requirement for emergency lighting. The RRFSO states that the responsible person or premises management team must ensure that ‘the premises and any facilities, equipment and devices provided in respect of the premises are subject to a suitable system of maintenance and are maintained in an efficient state, in efficient working order and in good repair’.
Emergency lighting is included, as its function is to indicate a clear means of escape and provide illumination along such routes to allow safe passage to an exit and ensure all points of emphasis are illuminated.
What are the consequences to the responsible person for failing to comply with the RRFSO?
Any failure that leads to loss of life, personal injury or damage to property could lead to prosecution. Those convicted will experience the full weight of the law – minor penalties include a fine of up to £5,000, while major penalties can have unlimited fines and up to two years in prison.
There is a growing portfolio of cases that demonstrates the seriousness of the issue.
Take, for instance, the Nottinghamshire businessman who was found guilty of a failure to carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment.
His crimes included failure to comply with an enforcement order, failure to ensure an effective means of escape from the premises, failure to ensure that exit routes were clear at all times, failure to provide adequate emergency lighting in emergency routes and exits, and failure to ensure that the non-automatic fire-fighting equipment provided was easily accessible, simple to use and indicated by signs.
He was sentenced to 26 weeks imprisonment suspended for two years, ordered to do 180 hours unpaid work and had to pay £4,000 in costs.
I’ve just changed the use of my building. Do I need to carry out another risk assessment?
Yes. The responsible person or premises management team is required to conduct a risk assessment as soon as changes are made in the workplace which have an effect on the fire risk or people at risk. Otherwise, it should be reviewed and updated on an annual basis.
Where can I get more information about the RRFSO and being a responsible person?
Industry leading life safety equipment manufacturers offer a range of advice on the subject and Hochiki Europe’s Emergency Lighting Considerations for Responsible Persons continuing professional development (CPD) seminar provides an overview of what is required when it comes to emergency lighting systems and the responsibilities under the RRFSO.
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