Has Health & Safety Gone Mad?
10th March 2015
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Has the Regulatory Reform ( Fire safety) Order 2005 made things easier?

The Regulatory Reform (Fire safety) Order 2005 is 10 years old this year, but has it made things easier for those that have to deal with fire safety?

I cannot go through every part of the order and give my opinions; I am writing a blog not a book. So will look at those areas which I believe have given rise to the most debate.

Suitable and Sufficient risk assessment

Once upon a time the local fire officer would come around to your business each year to have a look around and provide you with a fire safety certificate. The problem with this approach was you knew when they were coming. This allowed unscrupulous business owners to ignore fire safety for most of the year and prepare for the fire officers visit. This obviously approach was fraught with risks, to both the business and individuals.

The RRO moved the need for a certificate by placing the onus for fire safety squarely on the shoulders of business owners and others. Add to this inspections and enforcement by the fire service and the result is a more proactive approach fire safety. And the proactive approach starts with a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment.

Article 9 of the RRO states “The responsible person must make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to which relevant persons are exposed for the purpose of identifying the general fire precautions…”

There have been and still are numerous discussions about what is a “suitable and sufficient” fire risk assessment. And that is the crux of the issue when trying to understand if what you have been provided with meets the requirements.

Many fire risk assessors are turning to third party certification or professional bodies to show they meet the criteria for competency. However, even third party schemes do not guarantee your assessment will meet the suitable and sufficient standard if the inspecting officer has a different idea of what it should be.

I have seen examples of assessments that looked little more than a tick box exercise be deemed to be suitable and sufficient; whereas what seemed like a comprehensive report failed the test.

So in this instance the jury is still out as to whether the RRO has resulted in suitable and sufficient risk assessments being produced.

Provision of information

So now you have your “suitable and sufficient” fire risk assessment what are you going to do with it?

Most assessments will have recommendations for improving fire safety. Mostly these will be things that can be done physically. For example put up more signage, install fire safety equipment and have equipment maintained.

As the responsible person you address these items. You inform the directors that you have dealt with the recommendations and the company now complies with the regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. Lastly you place the assessment in the filing cabinet where it can be retrieved should your insurance company or local fire safety officer needs to see it.

Under Article 19 however there is a requirement to share some of the information contained in the assessment with your employees. What never ceases to amaze me is that this information is rarely if ever passed on. When was the last time you were informed what was in the fire risk assessment? Surely you received this during your fire safety awareness training?

Which brings me on to my last point, training for employees. Under Article 20 we see one of those words which confuses the reader, “adequate”. So what is adequate safety training?

Training should be specific to the company and a the very least include –

    • What is a fire how, they can start and how can they be prevented.
    • Control measures in place (fire alarms, extinguishers, procedures etc.)
    • What to do in the event of a fire (exit routes, assembly points, who will call the emergency services)
  • And the significant findings to the fire risk assessment

If your training provider does not ask what the significant findings of your fire risk assessment are then you should question the validity of the training. Getting this initial fire safety training will make it straightforward to provide refresher training, which can be done via tool box talks or E-learning.

So has the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 made things easier?

Well the jury is still out on that one. The ambiguity of words such as suitable, sufficient and adequate leave room for interpretation. I suppose the is the point as dictated check box approach will not provide a solution.

An assessment should be just that; an assessment based on the information available and the knowledge of the assessor which results in a pragmatic solutions that hopefully complies with legislation.

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