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.
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.
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:
A guide is also available for providing a Means of Escape for Disabled People, which you can find here.
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:
As an absolute minimum you must by law:
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.
You need to identify:
You need to identify any persons that are especially at risk, such as:
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:
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
A means of extinguishing small fires
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 small and simple premises may be able to satisfy these standards with relative ease. However, you should still evidence any precautions you have taken.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.