What are the benefits to businesses?
The purpose of the FSO is to simplify fire safety legislation and reduce the number of enforcing authorities that businesses have to deal with. The FSO abolished the requirement for businesses to have a fire certificate and replaced it with a duty on a ‘responsible person’ (usually the owner, occupier or employer) to carry out a risk assessment and implement appropriate measures to minimise the risk to life and property from fire; and to keep the assessment up to date.
Does it affect me?
Yes if you are an employer, owner or occupier of business or industrial premises, or if you have some degree of control over any commercial premises.
What do I have to do?
The FSO places a duty on a ‘responsible person’ (usually the owner, employer or occupier of business or industrial premises) to carry out a fire risk assessment. Responsible persons under the FSO are required, following a risk assessment, to implement appropriate fire safety measures to minimise the risk to life from fire; and to keep the assessment up to date.
What is a competent person under the Order?
The term ‘competent person’ is contained within three articles of the Order. These deal with fire fighting and fire detection; procedures for serious and imminent danger and for danger areas; and safety assistance.
In each case the term is explained as referring to a person who ‘… has sufficient training and experience or knowledge and other qualities …’ to implement the requirements of the article.
How often should I do a risk assessment?
You should keep your fire risk assessment under regular review as risks may change over time. If you make changes to your premises, you should ensure that the assessment and risk management plan remains current.
What happens if I share my premises with others?
If you share a building with others, you will need to co-ordinate your risk management plan with them. If your plan changes as a result of a review or changes you made to your premises over time, you will need to share the revised risk management plan with others who share the premises.
Do I need a fire certificate?
No. The FSO abolished the requirement for businesses to have fire certificates.
Am I responsible if my fire safety equipment fails?
Under the FSO all fire precautions must be maintained in efficient working order and good repair so if any failure is due to lack of maintenance, then you could be held responsible. However, where maintenance contracts exist for the equipment, the enforcers may take action against the contractor.
Will the Fire and Rescue Service still inspect my premises?
In some cases yes, particularly in higher risk premises. But they cannot carry out your fire risk assessment for you.
Who Enforces the Fire Safety Order?
The local fire and rescue authority (the fire and rescue service) will enforce the Order in most premises. The exceptions are:
- Crown-occupied/owned premises where Crown fire inspectors will enforce;
- premises within armed forces establishments where the defence fire and rescue service will enforce;
- certain specialist premises including construction sites, ships (under repair or construction) and nuclear installations, where the HSE will enforce; and
- sports grounds and stands designated as needing a safety certificate by the local authority, where the local authority will enforce.
The enforcing authority will have the power to inspect your premises to check that you are complying with your duties under the Order. They will look for evidence that you have carried out a suitable fire risk assessment and acted upon the significant findings of that assessment. If you are required to record the outcome of the assessment they will expect to see a copy.
If the enforcing authority is dissatisfied with the outcome of your fire risk assessment or the action you have taken, they may issue an enforcement notice that requires you to make certain improvements or, in extreme cases, a prohibition notice that restricts the use of all or part of your premises until improvements are made.
If your premises are considered by the enforcing authority to be or have potential to be high risk, they may issue an alterations notice that requires you to inform them before you make any changes to your premises or the way they are used.
Failure to comply with any duty imposed by the Order or any notice issued by the enforcing authority is an offence. You have a right of appeal to a magistrates court against any notice issued. Where you agree that there is a need for improvements to your fire precautions but disagree with the enforcing authority on the technical solution to be used (e.g. what type of fire alarm system is needed) you may agree to refer this for independent determination.