Don't get burned by new fire rules

31 March, 2006
Bakers will have a greater responsibility for fire safety under new legislation to be introduced in October, consultant Alan Gill tells British Baker. He explains what bakers need to do to be ready
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Alan Gill: a fire safety advisor for 25 years

The hotchpotch of fire safety regulations that bakeries must abide by are to be replaced by an easier-to-understand standard later this year. Originally due to come into effect in April, The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order has been delayed until October 1 to allow for the publication of essential guidance documents.
The new order is intended to consolidate the previous legislation, which dates back over many decades. The simplified legislation will be less formal and bureaucratic to implement.Bakers are advised to review their fire safety provisions and take this legislative delay as an opportunity to prepare for the introduction of the new regulations.It is vital to ensure that your fire safety strategy addresses the risks within your business. You should also maintain records, which, when scrutinised, can provide evidence of the systems you have in place to minimise and control the risk.Main changesThe role of the Fire Service under the Regulatory Reform Order will change to one of monitoring and enforcement. For example, fire safety officers will carry out audits of businesses to determine their level of risk and to highlight any non-compliance issues that require addressing. At the same time, the old Fire Certificates system will be abolished.Fire brigades will implement a risk-based inspection programme. This will involve drawing up a risk rating for premises that considers the safety of its personnel, as well as potential loss or risk to the community in the event of a fire. In determining the risk a business presents, the following factors will be considered:- Structure of the building- Use of the premises (manufacturing, office, shop, etc)- Processes carried out- Potential fire spread- Structural fire protection- Standard of fire safety management- Environmental impact- Access and water supplies- Building Regulations compliance (B1-B5).Also under consideration will be the safety of firefighters. Businesses are not only responsible for the safety of people who work for them or visit the premises. They are also accountable for the safety of those who may be affected by business operations and the safety of firefighters who may have to respond to an emergency on the premises.An initial estimate of the level of risk can be made by the Fire Service by considering:- The provision of active and/or passive fire safety systems- The level of fire safety management- The size of the premises.The level of risk (relative to fire safety) of a particular business premise could be rated as:Active and/or passive safety systemsSevere under-provision - VERY HIGH RISKUnder-provision - HIGH RISKNormal provision - MEDIUM RISKOver-provision - LOW RISKSignificant over-provision - VERY LOW RISKWho is responsible? The new regulation requires that the “responsible person” must ensure that all reasonable measures have been taken and that a “suitable and sufficient” fire risk assessment has been carried out and documented.Bakers should note that a tick box questionnaire without narrative to support the findings would not be considered adequate. Also, the person carrying out the fire risk assessment must be suitably qualified and experienced in the field of fire safety.But who is the “responsible person” within your company? Within the draft Fire Safety Policy Directive, the responsible person, in order of preference, is:- Employer- General manager- Health and safety manager- A nominated agent of the employer or other person having control- Owner.The level of enforcement to be taken following a negative risk assessment follows the principles, expectations and methodology of the Enforcement Management Model. This is produced by the Health and Safety Executive.ChecklistSo what should bakers do to prepare for the regulatory reforms?Initially you should arrange for a qualified professional to carry out a fully-compliant fire risk assessment. You should then be given a document that prioritises the required actions to be taken and allows practical timescales for implementation.During 25 years’ experience as a fire safety adviser, I have found that the majority of businesses are not fire safety compliant in the following areas:l Provision of annual fire awareness trainingl Inadequate fire alarm/detection systems; fire fighting equipment; emergency lighting; and fire safety signage.You should be aware that the issues of structural compartmentalisation and adequate means of escape require a greater degree of understanding; as does the reduction of risk relative to manufacturing processes and storage.Following the identification of the risks and the prioritising of the deficiencies, it is extremely important to share the findings with company personnel and others who may be affected.Sharing of these findings can be integrated into the annual fire training programme. This is an effective method of sharing the responsibility for the implementation of required actions throughout the company.A business protection plan should then be prepared alongside detailed emergency fire plans that identify the layout of the building and highlight risk areas, hazards, structural issues, isolation of services and so on.Preparation of an emergency fire plan can substantially reduce:- The risk to personnel in the event of an emergency- The risk to responding operational fire crews- The risk of fire spread and business losses.It is important to remember that an emergency fire plan is a protective measure which is viewed as a positive initiative by the insurers.- Alan Gill owns AWG Fire Health & Safety, tel: 01642 714585; website: www.awgfire.co.uk



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