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NEW, 'SIMPLER AND SAFER' FIRE LAWS

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Fire minister Angela Smith joined forces with partners today to urge those affected by the forthcoming shake-up of ...
Fire minister Angela Smith joined forces with partners today to urge those affected by the forthcoming shake-up of fire safety legislation to take advantage of new guidance published by the Department for Communities and Local Government.

Those responsible for any premises in England and Wales where people gather face new rules, approved by Parliament in June last year, which will apply to virtually all premises in England and Wales. The legislation covers nearly every type of building, structure and open space except for private homes and individual flats in a block or house, although communal areas will be affected.

From 1st October 2006, the responsibility for fire safety will lay with employers, self-employed with premises, voluntary organisations, those responsible for buildings with public access and any contractor who exercises a degree of control over any premises.

These 'responsible persons' will have a duty to ensure the safety of everyone who uses their premises and those in the immediate vicinity who may be at risk if there is a fire.

Ms Smith said:

'Prevention has always been better than cure and these important reforms reflect the government's continued focus on risk assessment and fire prevention to reduce death, injury and damage caused by fire. It is also a flagship example of the drive to cut red tape by making it quicker and easier to tackle over-complicated regulation.'

Fire Service Inspectorate head Graham Meldrum added:

'The new rules will apply to most places except private houses and will make fire safety law easier to understand by doing away with the existing 70 separate pieces of legislation and replacing them with a new regime focussed on preventing fires happening in the first place.

'Anyone responsible for premises must carry out a fire safety risk assessment by 1st October 2006. The fire and rescue service will carry out inspections and failure to comply could lead to enforcement action or even prosecution

'If you meet your obligations under the current law, the new regime should not cost you anything more and may save you money.'

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) health and safety spokesperson, Mary Boughton, said:

'It is vital that all businesses protect the Health and Safety of their staff. As part of their duty to do that they must be aware of the new rules about fire safety that come in to force in October. We urge all small firms to check that they have the necessary steps in place to protect their staff and premises from the risk of fire for the sake of both their workers and the viability of their business.'

The Department for Communities and Local Government is working with stakeholders to raise awareness of the new laws amongst those affected. They have already targeted 1.6 million premises to receive a leaflet explaining the main changes and what needs to be done to comply with the Regulatory Reform Order (Fire Safety) 2005. Copies available at www.communities.gov.uk/index.asp?id=1500383

There are also a series of guides to assist those preparing fire risk assessments including an entry level 'A short guide to making your premises safe from fire' and more detailed guidance targeted at specific areas of business including:

Offices and Shops

Premises providing Sleeping Accommodation Residential Care Small and Medium Places of Assembly Large Places of Assembly Factories and Warehouses Theatres and Cinemas Educational Premises Healthcare Premises Transport Premises and Facilities Open Air Events

All of the guidance documents are available here.

Notes

1. Fire Facts

* There were approximately 81,500 fires in non-domestic premises (places where people work, meet and gather) in England and Wales between 2002 and 2004.

* As a result 65 people died and about 3,900 were injured.

* The overall economic cost of fire in England and Wales was just over£796m in 2004 (this figure includes property losses, fatalities, injuries and lost business)

* The average economic consequential cost of fire to a business in

2004 was£34,400

* Statistics for numbers of non-domestic fires broken down by business sector and region are available at:

2002 www.communities.gov.uk/pub/974/FireStatistics2002_id1501974.pdf

2003 www.communities.gov.uk/pub/975/FireStatistics2003_id1501975.pdf

2004 www.communities.gov.uk/pub/975/FireStatistics2004_id1501976.pdf

2. What's changed?

* The 'responsible person' must ensure the safety of everyone who uses their premises

* Fire safety law will be covered by one piece of legislation.

* The emphasis will be on preventing fires and reducing risk

* The 'responsible person' must ensure that fire protection equipment (for example, fire extinguishers) and facilities are maintained in good working order.

* Fire certificates will be abolished and there will no longer be the need to pay for one.

3. Who will enforce the new rules?

* Responsibility for enforcement will be with the local fire and rescue service authority which will carry out regular inspections with top priority going to those premises presenting most risk to the community.

* They are able to do this within the context of the new Integrated Risk Management Planning (IRMP), part of the Government's modernisation agenda for the FRS.

* For more than 40 years, the fire and rescue service provided cover for fires according to recommended standards. These standards dated back to 1947 and were based on property types within a given area.

* Integrated risk management has shifted the focus in planning to put people first, looking at the risks arising from all fires and other emergency incidents, and at the options for reducing and managing them.

* Before making each change, fire and rescue authorities have undertaken, and will continue to do so, wide consultation with their local communities.

4. Fire and Rescue

* Every year there are more than 40,000 accidental house fires in England resulting in about 285 deaths and 9,000 people injured.

* As the government department responsible for fire and rescue services in England (and for the purposes of this legislation, Wales), the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has a target to reduce domestic fire-related deaths by 20% and arson by 10% by 31 March 2010.

* We are working with our partners to modernise the Service, so that it is equipped and skilled to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

* The 2003 White Paper Our Fire and Rescue Service sets out our vision to achieve this.

* The subsequent Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004 formally recognises the many vital roles, alongside fire fighting, that our fire and rescue services undertake - including responding to terrorist threats.

* It is our job to ensure that the right framework is in place to enable the Service to respond to today's challenges. Individual fire and rescue services can now plan their fire cover to meet local communities' needs and risks. A new national network of control centres will ensure that the Service can effectively respond to any incident, from a small house fire to a large-scale national emergency.

* DCLG works to ensure that fire-fighters have the leadership, equipment and training they need. We also support changes being introduced by the Service to recruit, train and develop its workforce to better reflect the communities it serves. Our work with fire and rescue services also contributes to a wider agenda of social inclusion, neighbourhood renewal and cutting crime.

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