Lawrence Webster Forrest (LWF), Fire Engineering and Fire Risk Management Consultants
Lawrence Webster Forrest (LWF), Fire Engineering and Fire Risk Management Consultants



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Lawrence Webster Forrest
Legion House
Lower Road
Kenley
Surrey
CR8 5NH

Tel: +44 (0)20 8668 8663 Fax: +44 (0)20 8668 8583
E-mail: fire@lwf.co.uk

News and Views

NEW FIRE REGULATIONS: Residential Care Premises

(LWF issue regular monthly updates covering topics specific to the implications of the new fire safety regulations on your business operation).


The New Law and Prescriptive Guidance


The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (FSO) is now in effect, it came into force on the 1st October 2006. The Government Department (DCLG) has issued a series of eleven guidance documents covering principal building use occupations, one of these is directed specifically at ‘residential care premises’.


Key Recommendations of the Guidance Document


The guidance document proposes a series of severe recommendations that may prove difficult for existing residential care providers to meet in full. In concept, the guidance recognises a ‘protected area’ within a building compartment as a fire separated section of a building on a specific floor. The ‘protected area’ may have several bedrooms included within it perhaps served by a common corridor. The guidance recognises the concept of progressive horizontal evacuation but requires that the ‘protected area’ be evacuated within 21/2 minutes and that this is tested by fire drills. The alternatives offered to this standard include sprinkler protection, reduction of compartment occupation, increased staffing levels to achieve evacuation time, or delayed evacuation by providing bedrooms with passive protection equivalent to 60 minutes fire resistance.


Implications to Residential Care Providers


The guidance makes assumptions regarding the level of dependency of residents within residential care premises. In our experience these are unrealistic in that the majority of residents need assistance and guidance to escape even if they are not fully dependent. The intimation is also toward moving the occupation of the most dependent residents to rooms on the ground floor level, this is not necessarily realistic as residents may have contractual use of a room, or the disruption would emotionally upset individuals and their families. The level of supervision to enable the evacuation times to be achieved is also financially unrealistic as over the 24/7 period sufficient staff would need to be available to evacuate all residents within a ‘protected area’ within the 21/2 minutes. Depending on the size of ‘protected areas’ this could require very high levels of staffing. The retrofit of sprinkler systems is equally difficult to achieve and expensive, the strategy of delayed evacuation considering 60 minutes fire resistance is feasible for new-build construction but very difficult to realise in existing buildings, particularly those that are not purpose built.


What are the Alternatives?


The guidance document allows the use of fire engineering principles to define an equivalent level of fire risk management to those recommended. LWF have developed a ‘risk managed’ alternative approach that relies on nominal physical upgrade and subject to the specific building, the development of fire safety management strategies that enable sub-protected area evacuation and subsequent main ‘protected area’ evacuation within extended times subject to fire engineering proof associated with time to hazard. The alternative approach is currently being discussed with care home licensing (CSCI) and fire authorities and is considered a practical alternative to full prescriptive compliance.


NEW FIRE REGULATIONS: Responsibilities and Liabilities Update.4

(LWF issue regular updates covering topics specific to the implications of the new fire safety regulations on your business operation).


The New Law


The new law (The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005) came into effect on the 1st October 2006. It is enacted through the Regulatory Reform Order (RRO), which in itself is legislation intended to enable the Government to amend existing legislation without the need to follow the full process of law enactment through Parliament. The Government’s intention for the RRO is to cut ‘red-tape’ and ease the legislative burden on commerce and industry generally. To reduce the possibility for confusion of Orders made under the RRO, the fire safety law is referred to as the ‘Fire Safety Order 2005 (FSO).


Responsibility


The FSO made under the RRO is criminal law. Responsibilities for fire safety apply to the majority of premises in which persons are likely to resort with the exception of single residence properties and other minor use occupancies such as ships, offshore establishments and mines. The responsibility for fire safety is placed with the ‘Responsible Person’ who can be defined as the individual who has control over the premises. In many cases this may be the employer. In others it may be the owner, or a shared responsibility between owner / Landlord and tenants who further divide responsibility between ‘common parts’ and demises and between physical fire precaution provision / maintenance and fire safety management.


Liability


In general application and indeed following a serious fire incident, the enforcing authority (local fire brigade) will appraise the Fire Safety Management System (FSMS) put in place by the Responsible Person. The way in which the responsibility is devolved (as applicable) will be examined and this will be assessed when compared to the competency of the individual to who the responsibility is assigned. An organisation cannot devolve responsibility without ensuring the training necessary to impart the appropriate competency for the task. If it does, any investigation will revert up the chain of devolved responsibility until a level of management competency is reached, most likely the Board of Directors or equivalent. The individual rather than the ‘corporate body’ may be liable if negligence is involved and in extreme cases the spectre of ‘corporate manslaughter’ will in the future be ever present.


Implications to the Individual


Only time and ‘case law’ will make the outcome of prosecutions clear for breaches of the FSO. Our interpretation is that provided an individual follows guidelines set by the organisation (such as undertaking fire risk assessments) and provided everything that is reasonable to be done, is done, then it is unlikely that individual prosecutions will follow. If however gross negligence is the proven case (such as falsification of records, wilful neglect of responsibility), then individuals rather than the corporate entity may find themselves with a heavy fine or imprisonment and of course, a criminal record.






NEW FIRE REGULATIONS: Competency and Fire Safety Training Issues - Update.3

(LWF issue regular monthly updates covering topics specific to the implications of the new fire safety regulations on your business operation).


Devolved Responsibility


A fundamental requirement of a Fire Safety Policy document is the definition of the way in which the organisation manages fire safety, how it devolves responsibility between those that hold ultimate responsibility and those who interface on a day to day basis with activities that may give rise to fire risk. Devolved responsibility is usually expressed in terms of ‘Roles and Responsibilities’. A robust approach to fire safety policy definition goes further as in addition to ‘top-down’ devolvement, it provides for a two-way system for communication, notification and reporting. Responsibilities defined within a Fire Safety Policy can range between those of the Board of Directors / owners of the organisation through to those with specific duties (risk managers, senior managers, fire marshals / wardens), and to general staff.


Competency


Having defined a means for devolving fire safety responsibility, it must be considered unreasonable that an organisation could expect an individual to accept a role for which he or she is not competent. This situation would be undesirable in normal work activities and is certainly unacceptable in this duty which carries with it some legal liability. It is essential therefore that the Fire Safety Policy makes explicit how the organisation ensures that those to who responsibility is devolved are competent to accept the role. Conversely, it would not be unreasonable for an individual to refuse a fire safety role if the skills and competency required were not provided through the provision of suitable training.


Fire Safety Training


All organisations will make arrangements to meets its statutory obligations in different ways. Although the requirements for fire safety will be similar, each organisation subject to the way in which it structures itself, will have a unique way in which it devolves duties. To enable a robust and transparent approach to this problem, the Procedure that defines competency should contain an analysis comparing responsibility to training requirement (Training Needs Analysis). It then needs to demonstrate that the identified training need is delivered by the training program that is applied. This can be summarised as appropriate training course content delivered by a competent trainer.


It is incumbent on the organisation to demonstrate its system to manage fire safety. One effective way of demonstrating competency is to incorporate a method of measurement at the point of training delivery. This may involve a test at the completion of a course. The test must be simple enough not to represent a barrier to volunteers, but effective enough to achieve the objective. The advantage of testing is the creation of an audit trail demonstrating that not only was the appropriate training delivered, but that in addition the message was received and understood by the individual.

NEW FIRE REGULATIONS: Corporate Governance Issues - Update No. 2

(LWF issue regular monthly updates covering topics specific to the implications of the new fire safety regulations on your business operation).



Effects of Fire


Current and proposed fire safety legislation is drafted to protect the lives of those working, using or residing in buildings. It is a fact that in providing the physical measures to ensure safe means for escape, a certain level of property protection is developed by default. This is achieved simply by the introduction of fire compartmentation and in the protection of escape routes. But is this enough when consideration is given to the impact asset loss can have on the business operational activity and the financial well being of the organisation? Fire can cause serious loss to property fabric, building contents and to the on-going operation of the building. It is a sad fact that of those businesses that have suffered serious fires in the past a large proportion fail within three years of recommencing business following the fire even if fully insured. The reason; during the reconstruction and re-equipping of the facility, the firms customer base moves away to alternative suppliers resulting in a situation that is very difficult to reverse.



Risk Management


Increasingly organisations in both the public and private sectors are required to report on risk exposure either as part of their formal financial return process or as part of their corporate management ‘good practice’ procedures. A business no matter how small has stakeholders, this definition is broader than the normal consideration of corporate shareholders as others such as employees, customers, suppliers, financiers and even the environment can be adversely affected by a serious fire loss. Fire remains a serious threat to any organisation and as such it is considered appropriate, and a good opportunity otherwise wasted, that whilst responding to the statutory duty to undertake fire risk assessments for life safety, the remit is extended to consider property and operational process protection.



Fire Safety Management System


As it is certain that Corporate Governance issues remain with the most senior levels of management, the application of measures to reduce the risk of fire is normally devolved down through the organisation. It is imperative therefore that when managers with devolved responsibility design their response to the statutory requirements of fire safety legislation, they consider potential issues beyond the standard advice regarding life safety fire risk assessment. To this end a Fire Safety Management system comes into its own. The system identifies the strategic risk exposures (life safety and asset protection), it defines the devolved responsibilities and means for communication both up and down within the organisation, it ensures that competency is transferred to all those with devolved responsibilities and provides the means to address the specific operational risks that the organisation is exposed to. It further sets the standards for audit and measurement, the end objective to demonstrate.



 



 

NEW FIRE REGULATIONS: Integrated Safety Management Update No. 1

(LWF issue regular updates covering topics specific to the possible implications of the new fire safety regulations on your business operation).


Legislation


Current health and safety legislation requires a risk management based response from all employers. The concept is based around devolved responsibility from the highest management levels within an organisation down to the level of operation at which risk is created. The intended outcome of this process is to develop a ‘safety culture’ within the operation such that safe systems of work become ‘second nature’ rather than subject to an imposed regime. Fire safety legislation is based on similar concepts and the application in 2006 of the new Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 stresses the importance of a robust system for devolved responsibilities and associated levels of competency of those accepting those responsibilities.


Organisation


From experience gained when undertaking exercises within all forms of organisations, it becomes evident that those persons to whom responsibilities are delegated for health and safety functions are chosen because they may have direct links to senior managers who retain primary responsibility, they may have a position that requires their consistent availability in a specific place of work, or they may be the kind of person who is keen to take on this type of responsibility. The attributes that identify the individual for health and safety duties align closely with those for fire safety. The synergies therefore between health and safety and fire safety are manifold and a good (robust) Policy approach would include the close integration of these roles and the systems that define them.


Expected Outcomes


The development of a good combined safety Policy document integrates the health and safety and fire safety responsibilities, it makes them clear in terms of devolved and delegated duties, it sets competency standards for those with devolved responsibility and it defines the way in which the organisation operates the safety management systems. The Policy document is a brief statement of the organisations intentions and how it intends to meet its statutory obligations and the systems adopted. Normally, the Policy is a ‘controlled’ document signed by those at the highest levels of management and only changed with their authority. The Policy is supported by a series of Procedures that set out the means by which the Policy can be effectively implemented.


THE NEW LICENSING ACT 2003 & FIRE SAFETY REGULATIONS 2004

The new Licensing Act where applied to premises requires four key objectives: prevention of crime and disorder, public safety, prevention of public nuisance and the protection of children from harm. Of these ‘public safety’ places the responsibility for the safety of staff, customers and other visitors on the licensee responsible for the premises. Often premises present a mixture of risks some common to licensed premises, others specific. One of the more common risks is related to fire safety, fire precautions requirements and general provisions for emergency escape.


Fire safety issues in Public Houses and Nightclub can affect numbers for safe occupancy, condition and layout of premises, lighting arrangements and special effects. Fire safety is therefore central to the Licensing Act and indeed to fire safety legislation that also applies to the premises and it is an additional statutory requirement in addition to the licence conditions, to prove that fire risk is managed. To achieve an appropriate level of fire risk management, the ‘responsible person’ for the premises is required to undertake a formal fire risk assessment. This requirement is common under existing and future (from April 2006) fire safety legislation.


Consider the implications:


* Licensees and Responsible Persons could be personally liable in cases of negligence or mismanagement. 


The combined effect of the new legislation underlines the importance for Owners, Occupiers and Managers of Public Houses and Nightclubs to develop high-level strategies that incorporate both health and safety and fire safety issues. It is particularly relevant where premises owners and operators employ staff who live on-site.


The new Licensing Act where applied to premises requires four key objectives: prevention of crime and disorder, public safety, prevention of public nuisance and the protection of children from harm. Of these ‘public safety’ places the responsibility for the safety of staff, customers and other visitors on the licensee responsible for the premises. Often premises present a mixture of risks some common to licensed premises, others specific. One of the more common risks is related to fire safety, fire precautions requirements and general provisions for emergency escape.


Fire safety issues in Public Houses and Nightclubs can affect numbers for safe occupancy, condition and layout of premises, lighting arrangements and special effects. Fire safety is therefore central to the Licensing Act and indeed to fire safety legislation that also applies to the premises and it is an additional statutory requirement in addition to the licence conditions, to prove that fire risk is managed. To achieve an appropriate level of fire risk management, the ‘responsible person’ for the premises is required to undertake a formal fire risk assessment. This requirement is common under existing and future (from April 2006) fire safety legislation.



Consider the implications:


* Licensees and Responsible Persons could be personally liable in cases of negligence or mismanagement.



The combined effect of the new legislation underlines the importance for Owners, Occupiers and Managers of Public Houses and Nightclubs to develop high-level strategies that incorporate both health and safety and fire safety issues. It is particularly relevant where premises owners and operators employ staff who live on-site.



The importance of expert advice


Lawrence Webster Forrest is one of the largest independent fire consultancies in the UK with a range of Safety Management Systems, which have been specifically designed to address these problems specifically for Licensed Premises organisations.



Accordingly, in an effort to support the new government fire safety initiatives, which come into effect this year and next, we are offering a consultation without obligation to discuss your fire and safety management systems.



Lawrence Webster Forrest is one of the largest independent fire consultancies in the UK with a range of Safety Management Systems, which have been specifically designed to address these problems specifically for Licensed Premises organisations.



Accordingly, in an effort to support the new government fire safety initiatives, which come into effect this year and next, we are offering a consultation without obligation to discuss your fire and safety management systems.

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