Editor, IFSEC Global

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Adam Bannister was Editor of IFSEC Global from 2014 through to November 2019. Adam is also a former Managing Editor at Dynamis Online Media Group.
May 3, 2016

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The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order, 10 Years on: Insights from the LFB Review

RRO 2005The London Fire Brigade has published an independent review into the effectiveness of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

Also known as the RRO, the legislation firmly assigned responsibility for fire safety in non-domestic premises in England and Wales to a ‘Responsible Person’: the business or building owner or the person in charge of overall management of the building. It also stipulated that all businesses with five or more employees must obtain a fire-risk assessment and act on its findings.

In clearly assigning responsibility to a single individual the legislation has arguably improved accountability, strengthening the incentive to fulfill fire-safety obligations (put simply: stay out of prison and avoid a hefty fine) and giving the fire service legislative teeth to pursue prosecutions.

There have been hundreds of prosecutions over the past 10 years, with heavy fines and even prison sentences handed down for a wide range of breaches.

But is the legislation still fit for purpose? Does it stipulate the responsible person’s responsibilities clearly enough?And is the enforcement framework as watertight as it can be?

As we approach the 10-year anniversary of the RRO coming into force (October 2006), Nick Coombe, CFOA lead on Enforcement, gives us an insight into the findings of the LFB review.

“The LFB has found that while the RRO is generally fit for purpose, there are possible improvements that might be sought to the details of the legislation: That changes to existing guidance on the RRO may be needed, and that the level of awareness of the RRO and its provisions among ‘responsible persons’ under the RRO is not as high as it should be,” says Coombe, who spent 33 years in the fire service.

The LFB’s biggest concerns, according to Coombe, are:

  • “Enforcement of other related legislation such as Housing Act and Building Regulations is seen by respondents as problematic, and the  RRO is seen as a tool to pick up the pieces. This is not how the legislation should be applied but this is seen as  due largely to lack of resources in Local Authority enforcement and fire being only one of 29 hazards they have to assess. Enforcement of building regulations is very rare retrospectively and can be difficult to prove non compliance many years after the building has been completed. Working with LABC TSI and CEIH to look at this issues and see if there a joint working that can ease resourcing issue
  • “The competency of fire safety managers, risk assessors (both in-house and contract), and their understanding of ‘risk’. Looking at pushing third party accreditation and FRA registers
  • “The competency of enforcement officers, their understanding of “risk”, and consistency of approach both within and between Fire and Rescue Services. This is being addressed by CFOA competency framework and all Brigade  inspecting officers receive training that leads to a nationally recognised fire safety qualification. We are looking at the role and should they with the issues ( around compartmentation ) be doing more intrusive inspection
  • “The significant rise of independent living premises that are care homes in all but name and regulation. This is problematic to Fire and Rescue services due to the risks presented by the behaviours and characteristics of some of the most vulnerable now being in their homes with little enforcement powers.  Contacting specific groups who responded to the review. E.g. Supported living sector and this has fed in to the CFOA work on producing specialised housing guidance. This is sector led piece of work funded by CFOA to produce national guidance to help with the issued facing the aging population etc
  • Guidance issued under the RRO is of varying quality. Some is formally issued under the terms of Section 50 of the RRO, which requires the Secretary of State to ensure that there is sufficient guidance available for “responsible persons” under the legislation. Other guidance is not formally issued under Section 50.It maybe seen as best practice by the industry or issued by the Local Government Association such as the Purpose Built Block of flats guide.  This may result in issues about the extent to which such guidance has legal application. The quality of guidance is also variable  It was also noted that the guidance is approaching 10 years old with no plans to review despite knowing it has fallen short in some areas. working with the sector (FSF) to help with sector specific guidance”

Nick Coombe – also CFOA rep on the RA Competency Council, vice chair of the CFOA Business Support Group and IFE risk assessment panel member – confirms that the “London Fire Brigade is working on the findings and conclusions of this report and further updates will follow.” An LFB Strategy Committee has discussed the report findings, and the minutes of that meeting can be found here.

John Briggs of the Fire Protection Association recently led a webinar on the ROO, setting out your legal obligations as a business owner or responsible person. The full text of the legislation is available on the gov.co.uk website.

The author will sit on an expert panel tasked with debating the Fire Safety Order at FIREX International 2016. Also including Ross Newman, Principal Technical Officer at Exova Warrington, and Colin Todd 0f CS Todd Associates, 10 years on from the Fire Safety Order will take place on 21 June between 10.45-11.30am in the Expertise & Guidance Theatre.

Click here to register for FIREX International 2016

The Future of Fire Safety: download the eBook

Is the fire protection industry adapting to the post-Grenfell reality fast enough? At FIREX International 2019, Europe's only dedicated fire safety event, some of the world's leading fire safety experts covered this theme. This eBook covers the key insights from those discussions on the developments shaping the profession, with topics including:

  • Grenfell Inquiry must yield “bedrock change” – and soon
  • After Grenfell: Jonathan O’Neill OBE on how austerity and policy “on the hoof” are hampering progress
  • Hackitt’s Golden Thread: Fire, facilities and building safety
  • Fire safety community has to “get on board” with technological changes

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Ian M alone
Ian M alone
May 28, 2016 9:09 am

Words mean nothing, accountability is needed . Legislation is so complicated and dispersed that most paperwork is just something for judges and barristers to mill over while tapping the public purse.
Would personally like to see the experts, guides and advisers place their pensions and homes up as some form of insurance when obvious best practice is ignored. Directors could proved bonds to cover their tenure etc

Tony
Tony
July 1, 2017 10:38 am

who voted for and against