The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) 2005 (RRFSO) became law in October 2006 and changed the way that the fire safety of buildings is managed and enforced.

The aim of the reform is to reduce burdens on business that are caused by the existence of multiple, overlapping general fire safety regimes, and consequently overlap of the responsibilities of enforcing authorities.

The order consolidates and rationalises most of the previous fire safety legislation, that was scattered across a large number of statutes and secondary legislation, into one order. In doing so it is designed to reduce the number of enforcing authorities dealing with general fire safety matters.

The reform maintains and enhances the protection afforded to users of premises by the previous legislation (and others who might be affected by a fire on the premises).

The RRFSO is intended to simplify fire legislation and in particular to remove the overlap between the previous Fire Precautions Act 1971 and the Fire Precautions (Workplace) Regulations 1997.
The primary objectives behind the RRSFO are to:

1) Create a single regime, which can be better understood and administered by both businesses and the relevant authorities
2) Create a regime clearly based on risk assessment, fire prevention and mitigation measures
3) Increase compliance
4) Focus resources for fire prevention on those premises which present the greatest risk
5) Ensure that fire safety facilities and equipment are well maintained

The order applies to virtually all premises and covers nearly every type of building, structure and open space. For example:

1) Offices and shops
2) Premises that provide care, including care homes and hospitals
3) Community halls, places of worship and other community premises
4) The shared areas of properties several households live in (housing laws may also apply)
5) Pubs, clubs and restaurants
6) Schools and sports centres
7) Tents and marquees
8) Hotels and hostels
9) Factories and warehouses

It does not apply to:

People’s private homes, including individual flats in a block or house

From the perspective of a building owner the major transparent change under the RRSFO has been the removal of Fire Certificates, with the onus of ensuring the fire safety of all those within a buildings falling on the shoulders of the Responsible Person.

By definition a responsible person may be:

1) The employer for those parts of premises staff that may go to
2) The managing agent or owner for shared parts of premises or shared fire safety equipment such as fire-warning systems or sprinklers
3) The occupier, such as self-employed people or voluntary organisations if they have any control
4) Any other person who has some control over a part of the premises.

The order states that any fire-risk in your premises must be managed. Fire authorities no longer issue fire certificates and those previously in force will have no legal status, therefore the responsible person must carry out a fire-risk assessment, however any fire certificates already in existence may be useful as a good starting point.

Where expertise to carry out such a risk assessment is lacking this process may be passed to a ‘competent person’. None the less, the responsible person will still be responsible, in law, for meeting the order.

The responsible person, either on their own or with any other responsible person, must as far as is reasonably practical make sure that everyone on the premises, or nearby, can escape safely if there is a fire.

Identified hazards must be removed or reduced so far as is reasonable and special consideration needs be given to the risks posed by the presence of dangerous chemicals or substances and the risks that these pose in case of fire.

Special consideration must also be given to any group of persons who may be especially at risk in case of fire, whether due to their location or any other factor.

All precautions provided are now subject to maintenance which should be installed and maintained by a ‘competent person’. Under the RRFSO a person is regarded as competent where he/she has sufficient training and experience or knowledge and other qualities to enable him/her properly to assist in undertaking the preventive and protective measures.

For commercial buildings the main enforcing body continues to be the local fire and rescue service.
The RRFSO is supported by a number of Guidance Documents that are ‘building type specific’ these guidance notes give help to the Responsible Person with regard to how risk assessments should be carried out for their particular type and size of building.

The ASFP has a role to play in supporting the RRFSO through its educational programmes and recommends the download of its publication ‘Ensuring Best Practice for Passive Fire Protection in Buildings’ as an initial starting point.