New fire safety rules came into force on 1 October 2006 and affect all non-domestic premises in England and Wales.
This will affect you if you are an employer responsible for business premises, are self-employed with business premises or are responsible for part of a dwelling that is used solely for business purposes.
Under the new law, which does away with the need for fire certificates, it will be your responsibility to ensure the safety of everyone who uses your premises.
The new law is an amalgamation of two previous laws.
In 1997 the Fire Precautions (Workplace) Regulations were introduced, which required businesses without a fire certificate to conduct a risk assessment. But in December 1999 an amendment came in force that broadened the scope of the legislation to include businesses that did have a fire certificate.
To simplify the regulations further, both have been replaced with one piece of regulation, The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety Order) 2005.
This requires any person who exercises a degree of control in premises to take reasonable steps to reduce the risk from fire and ensure occupants can safely escape if a fire does occur.
The Order applies to virtually all premises and covers nearly every type of building, structure and open space. These include offices and shops, premises that provide care, community halls, common areas, pubs, clubs, restaurants, schools, tents and marquees, hotels, hostels, factories and warehouses - basically anywhere except purely domestic premises.
You will no longer require a fire certificate as fire risk assessments are now the primary method to manage fire risk in the workplace.
Under the new regulations, a 'responsible person' is required to ensure that a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment is done on site, and must act on the findings.
The new fire legislation requires the responsible person to take account of the impact that a fire might have to surrounding premises and persons, including the safety of fire fighters should they need to enter the premises.
He or she must consider who may be especially at risk, eliminate or reduce the risk from fire as far as is reasonably practical, and provide general fire precautions. They also must take additional measures to ensure fire safety where flammable or explosive materials are used or stored and create a plan to deal with any emergency.
The responsible person must document the findings and review them whenever necessary.
Usually employers and building owners will take on the role of 'responsible person', but anyone who has control over the premises can also do it.
Although fire certificates will no longer be valid, a fairly recent fire certificate will be a good starting point for your fire risk assessment.
If you are already complying with the existing legislation then it should be fairly simple to adhere to the new law. But if your fire precautions aren't up to date then you may have to look at some additional areas.
To help you ensure your premises comply with the new legislation, an online self-assessment form is available from the government along with downloadable guides.
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