The LWF Blog
Facilities Management – Part 1 – Fundamental Fire Safety LegislationFebruary 19, 2015 10:38 am
Legislation may not get everyone excited, however, it is worth noting that it is a fundamental driver of fire safety, and compliance with the law – as a minimum – will help you to avoid prosecution as well as meeting fundamental life safety objectives. Achieving compliance with the law is the reason many of us install and maintain fire precautions and fire management measures and so a basic understanding of what is required by law is necessary.
It is not the intent of this blog to look at how legislation has been built up, but merely to describe common, current fire safety legislation that will have an effect on Facilities Managers and, indeed, all those responsible for premises. This blog will consider fire risk assessment as the fundamental basis, however it should be noted that this alone will not necessarily meet all legislative requirements.
The primary piece of legislation which details the measures we need to take into account is the ‘Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005’. This is commonly referred to in the fire industry as the ‘RRO’.
The founding principle of the RRO is fire risk assessment. This is not a new principle, however the legislation does encompass previously exempt properties and effectively now applies to all buildings other than single family dwelling houses and specialist structures/occupancies.
So, by law, we need to undertake a Fire Risk Assessment (FRA). The FRA itself will consider other relevant legislation/British Standards/accepted codes of practice, depending upon the individual circumstances. In fact, this is one of the fundamentals of fire risk assessment – no two fire risk assessments are likely to be the same. Two buildings of exactly the same size, design, number of stairs etc. will likely have very different fire risk assessment findings. One may be a call centre with a high occupancy (life risk) the other an industrial unit with low occupancy, but high fire load/ignition potential (process risk). Whilst the buildings are physically the same, their use & occupancy makes the risks very different. These differences will lead to significantly varied outcomes in the fire risk assessment, which will lead to very different management procedures and physical fire precautions.
This bespoke fire risk assessment and the derived solutions, commensurate to the prevailing risk, are the heart and success of the FRA process and the intent of the legislation.
To assist persons with undertaking a fire risk assessment a number of guides have been produced by the government. The guides provide benchmark solutions for typical buildings and provide the reader with referenced solutions.
However, a level of knowledge is likely to be required in order to make appropriate assessments, so if you are undertaking your own FRA, you should ensure you meet competency criteria, i.e. have sufficient knowledge and experience. A common breach of legislation currently is that an FRA is not ‘suitable and sufficient’.
The FRA should be considered as the starting point for compliance with legislation and should encompass relevant issues, such as the ongoing safety of the occupants and, for example, testing and maintenance of fire precautions.
Next week’s blog will look at some of the fire prevention issues we should consider within both the FRA and day-to-day running of a building. In the meantime, if you have any queries about a project or wish to discuss this blog series, please contact Peter Gyere in the first instance on 0208 668 8663.
Lawrence Webster Forrest is a fire engineering consultancy based in Surrey with over 25 years’ experience, which provides a wide range of consultancy services to professionals involved in the design, development and construction and operation of buildings.