• October 18, 2019

    What is the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005?

    The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, or ‘RRO’ for short, was introduced to provide a minimum safety standard for all non-domestic buildings. It designates responsibility for fire safety to a specific person or persons, depending on the premises.

    Essentially it ensures that any person with some level of control in a premises takes reasonable steps to reduce the risk of fire. That same person also needs to do everything possible to make sure that people can escape safely from the building if a fire breaks out.

    Those responsible for abiding by the RRO must carry out specific fire safety duties. This includes conducting a fire risk assessment and taking resulting actions to protect the occupants of their building. If they do not do this they risk penalties ranging from fines to a prison sentence.

    emergency exit sign lit up in dark



    How is the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 different to previous fire safety regulations?

    Prior to the RRO 2005, fire safety in the United Kingdom was outlined by some seventy pieces of fire safety legislation.

    The most notable of these was the Fire Precautions Act 1961 and the Fire Precautions (Workplace) Regulations 1997/1999. In 2001 it was decided that the regulations needed to become centralised to a single piece of legislation, in order to simplify the expected conduct outlined within it.

    In comparison to the previous legislation, the RRO 2005 places greater emphasis on fire prevention in all non-domestic premises. This includes premises used within the voluntary sector as well as premises used by self-employed persons separate from their home.

    The key difference is that it focuses on “all non-domestic premises”. Previous legislation focused on workplace environments, whereas the RRO 2005 includes any premises with a large volume of people working and/or visiting.

    Which types of premises does the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 apply to?

    As the RRO 2005 covers all non-domestic premises, there are now a wide range of building types that are subject to the order. These include:

    Offices and shops

    • Offices and retail premises (including individual areas within larger premises such as within a shopping centre). Industry-Specific Guide.

    Factories and warehouses

    Sleeping accommodation

    • Applies to any premises where the main purpose is to provide sleeping accommodation. This includes, but is not limited to; hotels, guest houses, B&Bs, hostels, holiday accommodation, HMO properties and sheltered housing. This category does not include premises providing general care, health care and places of custody. Industry-Specific Guide.

    Residential care premises

    • Residential care and nursing homes where the premises are permanently staffed and the primary purpose is to provide general care and not health care. Industry-Specific Guide.

    Educational premises

    Small and medium places of assembly

    • This includes restaurants and cafes, community centres, libraries, churches and other places of worship, small public houses, clubs – essentially meeting places that can accommodate up to 300 people. Industry-Specific Guide.

    Large places of assembly

    • Premises designed to accommodate upwards of 300 people, e.g. shopping centres, large night clubs, conference centres, museums, libraries, churches and other places of worship. Industry-Specific Guide.

    Theatres and similar premises

    Open-air events and venues

    • Including but not limited to, theme parks, zoos, sporting events, fairgrounds and county fairs. Industry-Specific Guide.

    Health care premises

    • Any area where the primary purpose is to provide health care, e.g. hospitals, doctors surgeries, dentists and any similar healthcare providers. Industry-Specific Guide.

    Transport facilities

    • Any transport facility or terminal including airports, train stations, bus stations, transport tunnels and ports. However, this excludes the means of transport itself. Industry-Specific Guide.

    Animal premises

    • Any equine establishment, stables, livery yards of other premises housing animals. Not inclusive of zoos (see open-air events and venues). Industry-Specific Guide.

    A guide is also available for providing a Means of Escape for Disabled People, which you can find here.

    Red and Yellow Fire Extinguisher

    Who is responsible for meeting the standards set out in the RRO?

    Under the regulations set out in the RRO 2005, anyone who has control of a premises or anyone who has a degree of control over specific areas or systems may be considered a ‘responsible person’. This includes:

    • The employer for the parts of a premises an employee may enter
    • The owner or managing agent for shared parts of the premises
    • The occupier, such as someone who is self-employed or voluntary organisations should they have any control
    • Any other person who has some control over a part of the premises

    What are the main rules set out in the RRO?

    As an absolute minimum you must by law:

    • Carry out a fire risk assessment to identify any potential dangers and risks on your premises
    • Consider anybody who may be especially at risk. For example, somebody with a physical disability
    • Completely remove or reduce the risk from fire as far as is reasonably possible, whilst providing general fire precautions to deal with any remaining risk
    • Take further measures to make sure there is protection for the storage of any flammable and/or explosive materials
    • Create a plan to deal with any emergency and, if 5 or more employees have access to the area under your responsibility, keep and record your findings
    • Review and edit your findings when necessary

    What is a fire risk assessment?

    A fire risk assessment is a step by step process that must be carried out by the owners of all non-domestic premises. As a result, the responsible person can gain a full understanding of the current level of safety within the building and identify where improvements need to be made. The five steps below summarise how a risk assessment is carried out.

    Step 1 – Identify any hazards within your premises

    Fire hazard cigarette lighter

    You need to identify:

    • Any source of ignition such as naked flames, heaters and commercial processes
    • Sources of fuel i.e. waste build-up, textiles, display materials and overstocked products
    • Sources of oxygen including air conditioning units and medicinal or commercial oxygen supplies

    Elderly people most at risk from fire

    Step 2 – Identify the people at risk

    You need to identify any persons that are especially at risk, such as:

    • People working in close proximity to fire dangers
    • People working alone and/or in isolated areas
    • Children and parents with babies
    • The elderly and people with physically inhibiting disabilities

    Step 3 – Evaluate, remove, reduce and protect from riskfire hazard cigarette butts

    You need to evaluate the level of risk in your premises. Should you find any fire hazards, they need to be removed or reduced where possible. For example, you can:

    • Make sure you separate any potentially flammable materials from sources of ignition
    • You can replace the flammable materials with less-flammable materials entirely, or better yet flame-retardant material
    • Have a safe smoking policy

     General fire precautions you should take

    It is not possible to give in-depth guidance for the precautions that should be taken in each type of premises. However, these are the minimum precautions that you should take.

    A fire detection and warning system

    • There must be a suitable fire detection system in place. This depends on the type of premises but can range from a shouted warning to electrical warning systems. You can find out more about the categories of fire alarms with our handy guide.
      Fire Extinguisher on Stand
    • It must be able to warn people in ALL circumstances

    A means of extinguishing small fires

    • It may be suitable to have a multipurpose extinguisher with a guaranteed shelf life
    • You should have one fire extinguisher for every 200m² of your premises

    Safe routes for people escaping the premises

    Ideally, there will be more than one escape route for each part of the building, although it is understood that this is not always possible. In either case, you must ensure that effective emergency signage is provided to guide those escaping a fire. Please follow our emergency signage guide here.

    Suitable fire exit doors

    • All fire safety exit doors on the escape route must be usable without a key or any specialist knowledge
    • In a premises used by a large volume of people, doors on the escape route should be usable by push (panic) pads or push bars

    All small and simple premises may be able to satisfy these standards with relative ease. However, you should still evidence any precautions you have taken.

    Step 4 – Record, plan, inform, instruct and train

    It’s time to record your findings and actions. Take note of any dangers and people specifically at risk in steps 1 and 2. You should also record what you did in step 3 to rectify or reduce potential fire hazards. A basic plan can help you to do this.

    You will also need an emergency plan. This should include any action you may take in the event of a fire. It should also document the fire safety instructions you have given to staff, guests, volunteers or any other persons regularly on the premises.

    All persons should receive adequate information and training about the potential risks on the premises relative to their position. For example, a fire marshal will need significantly more training than general staff in order to carry out their duties.

    Step 5 – Review and Revise.

    You should always make sure that your fire risk assessment is up to date. Your assessment should be re-examined if for any reason you believe it to be no longer valid.

    fire risk assessment plan

    For example, there may have been changes made to the premises or a relevant incident that suggests there is a change to the level of risk at your premises. This may include:

    • A change in the number of persons regularly on the premises
    • The arrival of a large amount of extra stock
    • New staff starting or different shift types being introduced


    Enforcement of the RRO

    The main agency responsible for enforcing fire safety regulations are the fire authorities. Due to the sheer number of premises, they have to be very specific when it comes to spending resources. Therefore, premises with a particularly high risk, such as care homes for the elderly, have yearly inspections.

    However, regardless of the perceived level of risk, the fire authorities will carry out investigations where there have been a number of complaints and in areas where poor fire safety management is discovered.

    Consequences of non-compliance

    Other than in the most serious cases, the fire authority will usually work with you in order to achieve a satisfactory level of safety. They will do this by providing practical advice and/or a formal notice.

    If a genuine risk to life is discovered, the fire authority may issue a notice preventing the premises being used for certain activities such as cooking or sleeping. They may go onto ban use of the building entirely.

    In all cases, you will have the right to appeal. This can be done informally by speaking with a fire safety manager to agree on a different means of meeting satisfactory fire safety. Failing that, a formal appeal may take place through the magistrate’s court.

    For serious offences, where there is a genuine disregard for life, you may be fined and/or imprisoned. Minor penalties can include a fine of up to £5,000. Major penalties meanwhile range from unlimited fines to a 2-year prison sentence.

    Who should carry out a fire risk assessment?

    This depends mainly on how complex the business or organisation is.

    If your business or organisation is relatively small, it is possible for you to carry out a fire risk assessment yourself. If you are planning on carrying out your own assessment, please refer to the industry-specific guides earlier in the article.

    For larger more complex businesses, you should contact an expert such as BusinessWatch to carry out the assessment. The fire authority will not carry out an assessment for you. Their responsibilities lie in ensuring your assessment was carried out correctly.

    If you would like advice or an expert to aid you during your assessment, please contact us or apply for a free quote. Alternatively, visit our Fire Risk Assessments page to find out more about our services.