In 2005, England completely overhauled its fire safety regulations. The Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order (RRFSO) repealed more than 100 pieces of legislation relating to fire prevention and replaced them with a simplified regulation whose main focus is on preventing fires through the use of protective measures, with a special emphasis on risk assessment. While the Order applies only in England and Wales, the preventive measures it lays out could be useful for any organization to adopt (so long as they are consistent, of course, with the laws, industry standards and regulations under which the organization legally operates). When combined with a comprehensive program for self-inspection, operating in compliance with the Order can help prevent loss of lives and property due to fire.
Putting someone in charge
One of the key facets of RRFSO is that it prescribes the appointment of a “Responsible Person” for each premises of an organization. This person will be in charge of carrying out fire risk assessments and taking the necessary steps to reduce or remove any fire risks that have been identified for that premises (office building, manufacturing or storage facility, etc.). Specifically, the Responsible Person – defined in the Order as someone who either owns or has control over a business or other premises – is in charge of overall preparedness. In addition to identifying fire risks and undertaking necessary steps to reduce or remove them, the Responsible Person has a number of other important tasks. These include:
- Providing information to occupants and visitors about the risks and preventative measures that have been put in place;
- Providing adequate fire safety training
- Ensuring that adequate means of escape are available in the event of a fire, with proper signage to identify them and emergency lighting along escape routes, if needed;
- Ensuring that firefighting and detection equipment is available and working; and
- Appointing additional “Competent Persons” to help in all of the above (where competence is defined as having a certificate indicating that the person has had fire prevention training by a recognized authority, such as (in England) the Institute of Fire Engineers).
The effectiveness of the measures outlined above can be greatly increased by putting in place a comprehensive self-inspection program as part of an organization’s overall loss prevention and risk management strategy. The program should be developed by individuals who are familiar with the particular industry and the hazards associated with each individual location that the company or organization operates.
The self-inspection program is designed to aid the Responsible Person in carrying out all of the duties described above. For example, it should ensure that all fire protection systems and equipment are not only in good working order, but that they are serviced and maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s guidelines. In addition, such a program should contain policies – aimed at all employees – that ensure good housekeeping standards are attained, and then maintained, around the premises, so that potential fire hazards are less likely to develop.
It’s important that all inspections take place on a regular basis (at least monthly, and in higher-risk environments, weekly) and that they be documented and submitted to management for review, so that corrective action can be taken quickly if required.
Combining the advantage of having a single person (the Order’s “Responsible Person”) in charge of overall risk assessment with a well-considered, comprehensive self-inspection program will pay dividends not only in terms of improved safety, but in peace of mind as well.*
To read the original paper on which this article was based, download the PDF.
* The content contained herein is intended for general informational purposes only. Companies and individuals should not solely rely on the information or suggestions provided in this article for the prevention or mitigation of the risks discussed herein and should seek the advice of an independent advisor for more complete information concerning their particular circumstances and any statements made in this material.