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Fire Safety Legislation

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 applies to nearly all non-domestic premises. The main effect of the Order is to ensure a move towards greater emphasis on fire prevention in all non-domestic premises, including the voluntary sector and self-employed people with premises separate from their homes.

If you are:

  • Responsible for business premises;
  • An employer;
  • Self-employed with business premises;
  • A charity or voluntary organisation;
  • A contractor with a degree of control over any premises.

If any of the above applies you you then act now.

Responsibility for complying with the Fire Safety Order rests with the 'responsible person' for the premises. If you are the responsible person you have to carry out a fire risk assessment which must focus on the fire safety of all people within your building. It should pay particular attention to those at special risk, such as the disabled and those with special needs, and must include consideration of any dangerous substance likely to be on the premises.

Your fire risk assessment helps you identify risks that can be removed or reduced and to decide the nature and extent of the general fire precautions you need to take to protect people against the fire risks that remain.

Are my premises covered by the fire safety order?

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 applies to almost all 'premises', including:

  • Any place
  • Any workplace
  • Any vehicle, vessel, aircraft or hovercraft
  • Any installation on land (including the foreshore and other land intermittently covered by water)
  • Any tent or movable structure

However, there are certain exemptions to which the Order does not apply; these are:

  • Domestic premises
  • An offshore installation within the meaning of regulation 3 of the Offshore Installation and Pipeline Works (Management and Administration Regulations 1995
  • A ship, in respect of the normal ship-board activities of a ship's crew which are carried out solely by the crew under the direction of the master
  • Fields, woods or other land forming part of an agricultural or forestry undertaking but which is not inside a building and is situated away from the undertaking's main building
  • An aircraft, locomotive or rolling stock, trailer or semi-trailer used as a means of transport or a vehicle for which a licence is in force under the Vehicle Excise and Registration Act 1994 or a vehicle exempted from duty under that Act
  • A mine within the meaning of Section 180 of the Mines and Quarries Act 1954, other than any building on the surface at a mine
  • A borehole site to which the Borehole Sites and Operations Regulations 1995 apply

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Responsible Person

It is usually the duty of the responsible person to ensure that any requirements of the Fire Safety Order are complied with. If the premises are a workplace the responsible person is the employer, if the workplace is to any extent under his/her control. For any other premises, the responsible person is the person who has control of the premises in connection with the carrying on by him of a trade, business or other undertaking, or the owner in all other cases.

Where a person has, by virtue of any contract or tenancy, an obligation to any extent in relation to:

  • Maintenance or repair of any premises, including anything in or on the premises, or;
  • The safety of any premises;

then they may also have duties under the Order.


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Fire Risk Assessment

How do I carry out a risk assessment?

The responsible person must make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risk to which people are exposed. This 'risk assessed approach' lies at the core of the new legislation.

The significant findings of the risk assessment must be recorded if:

  • Five or more people are employed
  • A licence is in force in relation to the premises, or
  • An alterations notice requiring the risk assessment to be recorded is in force

The risk assessment must be reviewed regularly to keep it up to date, and particularly if:

  • There is a reason to suspect that it is no longer valid, or
  • There has been a significant change to the matters to which the assessment relates.


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What guidance is available?

The Department for Communities and Local Government has prepared several guides to assist with complying with the requirements of the Fire Safety Order which can be viewed or downloaded.


How is the Fire Safety Order enforced?

The local Fire and Rescue Service will enforce all matters relating to fire safety in accordance with the provisions of the statutory legislation for which it has enforcement responsibility. A fire inspector has certain powers, for example a right of entry and a right to require the production of relevant documents. The details of the procedures to be adopted by inspectors when carrying out the enforcement policy can be viewed on request. If the Fire and Rescue Service considers that any provision of the legislation has not been complied with we may take formal action, such as the issue of an alterations notice or an enforcement notice. We will on all occasions exercise due care and consideration in regard to the use of enforcement powers, and as far as is practicably possible, ensure matters are addressed through legislation having primacy in the circumstances.

If we are of the opinion that the risk to life is so serious, we may issue a Prohibition Notice to prohibit or restrict the use of a premise.

It is an offence not to comply with the requirements of the legislation. Depending on the nature of the offence, a guilty person may be liable to a fine or to imprisonment for up to two years, or both.

However, the main aim of the Order is to encourage a risk assessed approach and to realise that there is often more than one way to achieve an acceptable level of safety in premises.


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Your legal obligations

How do I comply with the Order?

If you are the responsible person you must ensure a fire risk assessment is carried out. Although you can choose to appoint one or more competent persons to assist you, you will remain responsible, in law, for complying with the Order. The level of necessary competence is not prescribed in the Order. It recognises that the extent of competency will vary according to the nature and complexity of the premises involved. The responsible person, either on their own or in co-operation with any other responsible person must as far as is reasonably practical, ensure that everyone on the premises can escape safely in the event of a fire.

This differs from previous legislation in that there is no longer any distinction made between people who are employees, for example in a place of work and members of the public at an open air entertainment venue. It includes people who may have a disability or anyone who may need special assistance.

The Order requires that the responsible person takes ownership of the management of any risk in their premises. Fire certificates have been abolished and those previously issued no longer have legal status. You will therefore need to carry out a fire risk assessment and ensure that your risk reduction, fire precautions and maintenance routines are sustained.

Enforcement of the Order

The Local Fire and Rescue Service are the primary enforcing agency for all fire safety legislation in non-domestic premises, regardless of use. They will target their resources and inspections at those premises that present the highest risk. The Local Fire and Rescue will address complaints about fire safety, undertake post fire investigations where poor fire safety matters are discovered and may carry out targeted or sampling inspections.

Where breaches of the Order occur the fire authority will provide practical advice or, where the risk is serious, formal notices. Except in the most serious cases, the fire authority will work in partnership with the responsible person in order to achieve a satisfactory level of fire safety.

Where there is a very serious life risk the fire authority is able to issue a notice preventing the premises being used for certain things, (such as sleeping) or prohibiting all or part of the premises being used at all.

In all cases there is a right of appeal. An informal appeal, normally to a more experienced fire safety manager, can sometimes identify a different method of complying with the Order. Where a responsible person has failed to comply with the Order and cannot agree with the enforcing authority what measures are necessary to remedy the failure, the Order allows for both parties to approach the Secretary of State for determination of the dispute.

In other circumstances, the responsible person can appeal to a Magistrate.

Who is responsible?

Under the Order, anyone who has control in a building or anyone who has a degree of control over certain areas or systems may be designated a "responsible person" for example:

  • The employer for those parts of premises they have any control over.
  • The managing agent or owner for common parts of a premises or common fire safety equipment such as fire warning systems or sprinklers.
  • The occupier of premises that are not workplaces such as a chairperson in a parish hall.
  • Any other person who has some control over a part of a premises may be the responsible person in so far as that control extends.

Although in many premises the responsible person will be obvious, there may be occasions when a number of people have some responsibility.