On 1st October 2006, the biggest overhaul of fire legislation for the past three decades took place with the coming into effect of The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (“the Order”).
Although the Order (which will apply only to England and Wales) consolidates over a hundred pieces of fire legislation in the workplace, its main effect is to give a greater emphasis on fire prevention in all commercial (ie non domestic) premises (including those in the voluntary sector and those of self employed people whose premises are separate from their homes) and will have significant implications for all owners, occupiers and managers of such premises.
In the first instance, fire certificates have now been abolished and have ceased to have legal status. However, the fire and rescue authorities will continue to inspect commercial premises and employers and owners of such premises must now agree, with those authorities, appropriate systems in relation to the management of fire risks and in relation to emergencies.
Responsibility for compliance with the Order will rest with the “responsible person”. In a workplace, that person will be the employer and any other person who may have control of the premises, such as an owner or occupier.
The “responsible person” will have to carry out a fire risk assessment which must pay particular attention to those at special risk, such as the disabled, and which must take into account the presence of any dangerous substances on the premises. Such an assessment must also identify any risks that can be removed or reduced and must contain basic information regarding means of escape, escape routes and means of fire fighting.
The risk assessment and any significant findings must be recorded if an employer employs five people or more and must be kept in the workplace for reference and training purposes.
The Order also requires the “responsible person” to ensure that the premises are equipped with appropriate fire fighting equipment which must be tested and maintained on a regular basis.