Comment by: Alex Rabinovitch
Focus area: Fire safety regulation
Regulator concerned: Fire safety (Fire Authority)
Whatever good reasons were declared for creating The RRO piece of legislation it appears that they have ended up with a document, which is written in such general terms that a lot of affected individuals are still scratching their heads struggling to figure out how to apply it in practice six years after the introduction.
Not surprising that fire risk assessors’, the responsible person’s and the enforcement authorities’ perception of the wording that a fire risk assessment should be suitable and sufficient in practice can differ as north and south poles. Two phrases used in the RRO: ”as far as is reasonably practicable” and ” where necessary” have done a nearly mortal blow to this piece of legislation. Add to that the wide spread incompetence.
As a result fire risk assessments and RRO enforcement are highly subjective.
In this situation rather than standing their ground, which may lead to a dispute, for a piece of mind the enforcement authorities often choose to be seen lenient. In fact, often they prefer to appease the responsible persons, so they can get good references from them rather than getting hassle for the same pay. This is even evident when one reads a number of contributions to this review, which are full of sugary praises to the enforcement authorities.
However, one can understand the pressure that the enforcement authorities are under. There is no reason for them to be seen as too keen in the situation where anyone can weasel out from The RRO with the reference to different perception of The RRO wording.
To consider the current effectiveness of The RRO enforcement one can simply compare fire statistics before RRO and after, when the enforcement should have made a positive effect. The enforcement is meant to prevent the accidents of fire. What we currently hear in the media are mostly the cases of court prosecutions AFTER the event of fire. It appears that one has to wait for an accident of fire to happen and then for the courts to make a judgement on the suitability of the fire risk assessment.
Also one can look at how many cases of the front door enforcements can be found. The entrance doors of non-domestic premises, such as shops and pubs, and of flats and HMO’s, which are facing common areas, are covered by the Fire Safety Order.
In this situation how many cases of the front door enforcements have you heard about?