Richard Stevenson, technical manager at the NAMB answers member’s queries on food and trading law and other business issues
Q. What is involved in carrying out a fire risk assessment and do I still need a fire certificate?
A. Firstly, you no longer need a fire certificate. This requirement was abolished six years ago.
In its place, a new Fire Safety Order introduced the requirement for all businesses to ensure they take more responsibility for fire safety at their premises. Under the order there is a requirement for a "responsible person" usually the owner, occupier or employer to carry out a risk assessment and implement appropriate measures to minimise the risk to life and property from fire. There is also a requirement to keep the assessment up to date.
There are five suggested steps to be carried out in a fire risk assessment:
1. Identify fire hazards how could a fire start and what could burn?
2. Consider the people who may be at risk employees, customers, contactors/visitors, residents on floors above. Also make special consideration for any vulnerable groups.
3. Evaluation and action think about what you have found in steps 1 and 2 and consider how to remove and reduce risks as far as practical.
4. Record, plan and train.
5. Review keep up to date on a regular basis.
Members can apply for more detailed notes on the five steps above. The training requirement is merely a procedure to ensure you fully acquaint staff of your plan, as well as their roles and instructions should the worst happen. You can carry out the assessment yourself there is no need to use consultants or attend formal training courses. If you employ more than five people, you will have to keep a written record of significant findings.
The enforcement of fire risk law will vary from area to area. In some cases it will be Environmental Health Officers (EHO), as part of their health and safety work, who will be responsible. In other areas it will be the local Fire and Rescue Service. In addition the Service has a duty to provide fire safety advice on request. Enforcement personnel have a duty to be reasonable and proportionate if they consider your protection measures are not suitable.
l We can supply more details for members on request.
Q. My EHO or TSO always seem to visit at the most inconvenient times possible. Can I ask them to make an appointment?
A. You can ask and you may be lucky. But most enforcement officers will not play ball unless it is a brief visit to check your HACCP records or something similar.
For an inspection they generally prefer to arrive unannounced. The statutory Code of Practice states: "As a general rule, inspections shall be carried out without prior warning. There will, however, be circumstances when it is advantageous to give advance notice. Authorised officers should exercise discretion in this area guided by the overriding aim of ensuring compliance with food legislation."
It should be remembered that enforcement officers have wide powers, which include the power of entry. They can enter any premises (other than private dwellings) during reasonable hours (normally business hours) for the purpose of carrying out their official duties or to determine if an offence has been committed therein.
It is an offence to wilfully obstruct an authorised officer from carrying out his official duties. Obstruction can include failure to co-operate.
Q. Can I do anything about the increasing number of calls I receive from telemarketing companies? I receive at least three a week and find them irritating and time-wasting.
A. Yes. Contact the Telephone Preference Service on 0845 070 0707 to register your number. This is a free, automated procedure and takes a few minutes. You can also go online at www.tpsonline.org.uk.
TPS, an off-shoot of BT, is the official central opt-out register. Once registered, you should stop getting calls after 28 days. It is legal requirement that all organisations do not make marketing calls to numbers registered on the TPS. If you receive any such calls, you can complain to the service and this will be reported to the Information Commissioner for further action.
You can also register your mobile. This will stop calls, but not SMS text messages. Companies can still call you if it is for genuine market research or if you are one of their existing customers.