The news that the communities department office failed an inspection undertaken under its own fire safety laws shows how careful all those affected by the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order must be to ensure that fire risk assessments for their premises are adequate and appropriate for their occupation
After the Lakanal House fire in Camberwell last summer, where six people died, it became apparent that hundreds of residential tower blocks around the country had inadequate risk assessments in place or none at all.
Undoubtedly there are likely to be many, many other buildings - from private apartment blocks to office blocks, workplaces and hotels - that also breach fire safety laws. There is widespread confusion about how to identify and rectify fire safety problems (many people don’t know what passive, or built-in fire protection is, for example) and the qualifications that are necessary to carry out a proper fire risk assessment. An internet search for providers of such assessments will reveal offers costing just a few pounds but a recent survey showed that only 8% of the providers were members of any recognised scheme and many had no real qualification at all. Recently a high street retailer was fined £400,000 plus costs for having an inadequate risk assessment.
The Passive Fire Protection Federation is dedicated to growing awareness of the Fire Safety Order and has started a series of half-day seminars for anyone involved in fire safety - see www.pfpf.org.
But this isn’t just a matter for professionals. Fire safety should be far higher on everyone’s agenda than it is. Since legislation changes in 2005, the owner or operator of any non-domestic building is personally and criminally liable for fire safety - but this is something for which everyone needs to take responsibility.
David Sugden, chairman,Passive Fire Protection Federation