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New fire regulations place more responsibility on employers


Employers are being urged not to penny pinch when it comes to new fire regulations soon to be introduced.

Plans to improve fire safety for businesses, aimed at simplifying the law while placing a greater focus on fire prevention, were laid before Parliament earlier this month.

The new proposals will place the responsibility for fire safety on the employer or ‘responsible person’ for that building or premises. The employer will have to assess the risks of fire and take steps to reduce or remove them.

“All businesses need to have a Fire Certificate in order to operate,” explained Nick Lewis, a partner at Bolton law firm Kippax Beaumont Lewis. “These have always been supplied free of charge by the local Fire Service but from January 2005, such certificates will no longer exist.”

Instead, businesses will become responsible for their own fire risk assessments. “Most businesses will need to rely on the expertise of an external consultant to undertake a review and this could cost quite a lot of money depending on the size of the premises and nature of the business,” he said.

A system will be implemented to penalize business owners who fail to undertake assessments and implement suitable precautions.

However, Lewis believes that many will flout their obligations: “I’m certain that many businesses won’t want to pay for an assessment and will just carry on without commissioning a fire risk assessment. The harsh reality is that such unscrupulous people could be jeopardizing many lives in their bid to save a few pounds,” he warned.

“While I’m the first to admit that reforms were needed, I’m not convinced the government has thought this particular aspect through to its logical conclusion,” he added.

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2004
will revoke the Fire Precautions Act 1971 and the Fire Precautions (Workplace) Regulations 1997. The Order is expected to come into force next year.

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