This website uses cookies primarily for visitor analytics. Certain pages will ask you to fill in contact details to receive additional information. On these pages you have the option of having the site log your details for future visits. Indicating you want the site to remember your details will place a cookie on your device. To view our full cookie policy, please click here. You can also view it at any time by going to our Contact Us page.

Priority for Fire

15 January 2006

Between now and April, FMs should be putting the finishing touches to their changes in practices and procedures necessary to comply with the new fire safety regime. Richard Forrest outlines the issues that should be addressed

AFTER MUCH CONSULTATION, referral and discussion, the new Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RR(FS)O) is due to come into effect in April. The principles of the new RR(FS)O are based on those of the current 'workplace' legislation which requires fire risk assessment and self-administration of fire safety standards. The existing Fire Precautions Act 1971 (as amended) will be repealed, so there will be no need to apply for and maintain the conditions of a fire certificate. Many similar pieces of prescriptive law will also disappear, or be considerably weakened. The current requirement for employers to assure the safety of staff under the Fire Precautions (Workplace) Regulation 1997 (as amended 1999) will also cease.

The new law will extend the current 'workplace' requirement from the employer to just about all buildings (other than individual residences and some other minor exceptions). The definition of accountability is changed from the 'employer' to the 'responsible person', who is defined as an individual and organisation having control over the premises. Where previously, some ambiguity may have existed in terms of liability, particularly in multiple-use buildings, the new law makes responsibility clear, in this and other respects.

Currently, under the Workplace Regulations, liability is extended to employees with other occupant safety covered in the more general duty-of-care responsibilities of the Health and Safety Regulations. The proposals now extend the definition of 'responsible person' to all of the premises' occupants - and beyond, particularly where the premises or their surroundings are under the responsible person's control. There is also a duty to co-ordinate with others who may be affected by the building or its process. For example, multiple occupancy premises where a landlord has control of the common parts of the building, and tenants their own domains.

What is unchanged, however, is the need for a fire risk assessment that will now cover these extended responsibilities. As no other form of fire safety record and management will exist, it is obvious that the fire risk assessment process needs to be robust; it needs to be appropriate to the level of risk and the dynamics of the building's use and occupancy.

Those with control over premises, who may be defined as the 'responsible person', should protect their personal liability by defining good policy and procedures that identify and devolve responsibilities down to those who create and manage risk on the 'shop floor'. He or she should ensure that those with devolved responsibility (including themselves) are competent to accept those responsibilities, and that all measures for fire safety are recorded and auditable. In short, should the worst happen, the systems put in place to record the management of fire safety, including the fire risk assessment process, will be the only defence and means to prove accident rather than negligence.

The Government has produced a series of guideline publications to support those with responsibilities. Purists amongst the professional fire safety fraternity might argue that the more guidance that is given, the more we look back towards prescriptive compliance rather than risk assessment. But it is fair to say that fire risk assessment, even if guided by set standards, is an improvement on the fire certification system we currently have. The latter usually applies to premises, as opposed to occupancy, and generally ignores the dynamics and the occupier's potential for change, while the certificate remains the same.

Early in 2006 the ODPM will issue a series of guidelines for the main risk-group occupancies. These are offices and shops, factories, hotels and boarding houses, schools and colleges, outdoor events, hospitals, theatres and cinemas and transport.

The guidance documents will be in two parts
... undertaking a fire risk assessment
... criteria for risk identification and safe limits.

Are you the competent person to undertake the assessment? This depends on the type, size, form and distribution of the building and its occupancy, together with the operation carried out. Training courses in fire risk assessment are widely available. These provide the basic skills to undertake simple risk assessments. For more complex risks, professional assistance in setting the system up is an advisable option. What must not be forgotten is that the European Health and Safety Directives, to which current risk-based approaches and the new legislation are intended to respond, is trying to create a 'safety culture' in organisations. To hand the process completely over to an external consultant does not entirely agree with the safety-culture principle.

LWF's concept of fire risk consultancy begins with assisting the client organisation to set up an appropriate fire risk assessment system, then helping them to identify where and what the principal risks are, and after that giving individuals the skills to cope with devolved responsibility so that they can maintain the system themselves.

The responsibility for enforcing the new order will remain with the local fire authority.

Fire Authorities will have the power to ensure that the responsible person has taken appropriate steps to ensure the safety of building's occupants. If not, and if measures are not taken to the satisfaction of the Authority, it can penalise through the courts. Penalties can include fines or even imprisonment for offences such as not carrying out a risk assessment, inadequate fire precautions or giving false information.

... The RR(FS)O is enforced from April 2006
... Most existing fire safety management law will be repealed
... The eresponsible personf is the individual who has control over premises; he or she will have to comply with the law
... Fire risk assessments are the main tool for measuring and controlling fire risk
... Fire safety management systems need to be robust; the fire risk assessment process is just part of a safety management system
... All buildings (with the exception of single dwellings and some other minor exceptions) will fall under the RR(FS)O
... Responsibilities extend beyond staff to all building occupants and those in the immediate area
... The Government will issue guidance on fire risk management for main building-use occupancies early in 2006
... There will be individual liability for failings under the order, with financial and imprisonment penalties.

City & Guilds Facilities Management Foundation Qualification
A valuable qualification for FM department team members. This programme introduces the key technical aspects of facilities management.

Three two-day units leading to City and Guilds accreditation, delivered as part of an open programme at one of our training venues, or at a location of your choice.

British Institute of Facilities Management - BIFM Part 1
Our modular programmes are delivered as a series of two-day courses that are designed to prepare you for the BIFM exams.

The Blue-Eye training approach will help you to develop your ability to apply your new knowledge in the workplace.

Enjoy our unique mentoring process that helps to ensure exam readiness.

2005 BIFM Part 1 examinations: 94% pass rate.

Course Information
Information on all our courses can be found on our web site:

Contact us for more information, help or advice at: Tel 01730 300034 or e-mail


... Richard Forrest BSc is a director of fire engineering and fire risk management consultants, Lawrence Webster Forrest Limited

Print this page | E-mail this page