Fire law set to burn small business

Responsibility for fire safety in commercial premises is to pass from the Fire Brigade to business owners from next April under a change to regulations coming into effect from next April.

Responsibility for fire safety in commercial premises is to pass from the Fire Brigade to business owners from next April under a change to regulations coming into effect from next April.

Responsibility for fire safety in commercial premises is to pass from the Fire Brigade to business owners from next April under a change to regulations coming into effect from next April.

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order has now been passed by Parliament and will be introduced in April 2006 in England and Wales and in Scotland at a later date. It places a responsibility on the Responsible Person (person with control over the premise) and outlines all the measures that must be taken to ensure the safety of all the people they are directly or indirectly responsible for. The Responsible Person is obliged to carry out a fire risk assessment, produce a policy, develop procedures (particularly with regard to evacuation), provide staff training and carry out fire drills.

The responsible person must provide and maintain:

  • Clear means of escape
  • Signs
  • Notices
  • Emergency lighting
  • Fire detection
  • Alarm
  • Extinguishers

The foundation of the Act is the risk assessment, which must be reviewed regularly and amended if necessary. It must be formally recorded if the responsible person employs five or more people, the premises are licensed or the Inspector requires it.

As part of the change, Fire Safety Certificates will no longer be issued by the Fire Brigade but will be downloadable from a Government website.

The news has got the Forum of Private Business (FPB) distinctly hot and bothered as it claims the change will further increase the legislative burden on SMEs. ‘This is a classic example of the Government shifting public sector costs onto the private sector,’ FPB spokesman Rex Garratt fumed.

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