Comment by: David Ridley
Focus area: Fire safety regulation
Regulator concerned: Fire safety (Fire Authority)
I have been a Fire Inspector for my local Fire Authority a relatively short time. In that time and in conjunction with my colleagues have been trying to enforce the RR(FS)O 2005 in a fair, timely and accurate manner giving regard to the Enforcement Concordat and working (where possible) with local businesses and enterprises.
There are still too many ‘Responsible Persons’ who are not aware of their responsibilities under the Fire Safety Order (FSO) despite the publicity and vast and myriad information available free online – e.g. most Brigades offer excellent fire safety advice to businesses and schools via their websites. My Brigade even offers a Fire Risk Assessment (FRA) template for businesses to use online (and in hard copy) to get more personal advice relating to their premises. I regularly give general telephone advice about what is required under the Order although there is simply not the staff available to carry out guidance visits. Nor should we as onsite remarks intending to be helpful could lead to a conflict of interest as the enforcing officer.
The problem is that people still don’t realise or think enough about the likely consequences of a fire at their premises – the life danger to relevant persons – the economical loss in terms of life, property, time, machinery, products etc. The entire loss can easily bankrupt companies. Yet Responsible Persons occasionally still cut corners, either through lack of knowledge, or a desire to save money, trying to reduce their expenditure on general fire precautions. Inspectors (like me) have to constantly juggle the safety of the relevant persons in and around those premises, with compliance under the FSO and the financial cost to the company involved, using subjective experience, woolly CLG guides, our own Brigades policy determination of those guides and Building Regulations plus a professional desire to ‘get it right’ for all parties concerned.
My experience so far tells me that we get it right most of the time – but said without complacency. These are my views and I claim to represent nobody but myself! I look forward to the review conclusions with interest…..