Comment by: Jonathan Herrick
Focus area: Fire safety regulation
Regulator concerned: Fire safety (Fire Authority)
Response on behalf of the CFOA West Midlands Region in response to the following matters raised in the consultation:
How and where companies access information about fire safety issues, their legal obligations, and how to comply with the law;
Activity undertaken by fire and rescue authorities to support business compliance;
The interaction businesses have with fire and rescue authorities on the business premises;
Any ‘knock-on effects’ arising from compliance with fire safety legislation – for example, where action to meet fire safety regulations leads to additional requirements to meet other sets of regulations.
Fire Authorities in the West Midlands region of CFOA undertake a number of proactive measures that fit into the headings above, to assist business; in particular SME’s. These measures include:
• The giving of general fire safety advice at seminars and educational / training events to promote the understanding of requirements (sometimes in partnership with e.g. Police, Trading Standards, Environmental Health etc);
• Providing fire safety advice and fire risk assessment templates on web-sites;
• The carrying out of seasonal campaigns and commercial hot strikes to educate business and inform them of risks specific to them or affecting similar businesses;
• Informing the responsible person where safety measures have been over-provided;
• Informing businesses (by letter) of forthcoming audits and inviting them to attend an education / awareness session to prepare the responsible person for the audit process and to promote compliance (35% attend these sessions);
• Developing an ‘educate and inform’ strategy for business;
• Using plain English in all communications with business;
• Engaging with Local Authority Regulatory Services Department (and with BRDO & Local Enterprise Partnership) to explore ways of reducing the regulatory burden on local business; and
• Being mindful of and using the Enforcement Concordat, Regulators Compliance Code, and the Enforcement Management Model (e.g. employing the most suitable and least expensive fire safety solution, not lingering in premises that provide reasonable safety, seeking minimum temporary safety measures to avoid issuing prohibition notices and to keep the business operating etc).
We also note the following to help inform the review.
The Fire Safety Order allows us to employ a generic set of principles to all premises; and is supported by a robust and graduated enforcement process and with enforcement models and codes to moderate enforcement activity.
In some areas, half the fires we attend relate to SME’s.
There is evidence to suggest that 40% of licensed premises do not have a fire risk assessment.
There is also evidence that some SME’s want a greater level of prescription to the inform them of what they need to do to comply with fire law.
Accreditation for fire risk assessors, specifiers, installers and the wider fire sector (including enforcers) would help the sector.
This review, by focussing on SME’s apparently assumes that risk is directly proportional to occupancy figures; this would be an incorrect assumption.
Serious fire safety failures (resulting in prohibition notices) can result in other regulators becoming involved in the premises and can thereby result in further enforcement action. This is in consequence of the information sharing and partnership working established between different authorities.