Yorkshire business could get burnt by new legislation, warns health and safety investigations lawyer

New fire safety regulations


New fire safety regulations are turning up the heat on Yorkshires 170,000 businesses and leaving bosses facing up to two years in prison if they fail to comply, one of the regions leading health and safety investigations lawyers has warned.

Fire safety regulatory reform

Sabeeha Khan, a senior solicitor with national law firm Irwin Mitchell, based at its offices in Queen Street, Leeds, is concerned too many businesses in Yorkshire are unaware of the implications of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, despite it coming into force in less than two months, on October 1.

She said: "This new legislation is heralded as the biggest single reform of fire safety legislation in over 30 years. It will effectively shift the emphasis of fire prevention and reducing risk away from authorities and onto employers, and increase their accountability if they fail to carry out their duties."

Under the regulations, Yorkshire businesses will need to appoint a responsible person, usually the employer or business owner, who must manage any fire risk in their premises.

Ms Khan said: "Unlike previously, fire authorities will no longer carry out risk assessments or issue safety certificates, and those previously in force will have no legal status. The onus is on the responsible person to ensure a full risk assessment is carried out, documented and resulting actions are taken, or they could face severe penalties, such as heavy fines or a prison term."

This person must also make an emergency plan, tailored to the premises, which includes any actions to be taken in the event of a fire onsite or nearby.

Ms Khan stressed risk assessments and emergency plans must be reviewed and updated where necessary, as the business grows.

She said: "Employers will also not only be responsible for the safety of staff, but also anyone on or in the vicinity of the business, such as cleaners, maintenance staff, temporary workers, volunteers, visitors or even members of the public passing by."

Each year in Yorkshire, there are more than 3,000 fires in buildings other than private dwellings, according to the Department for Communities and Local Government. There are around 40,000 in the UK, as a whole.

Ms Khan said: "Different businesses have very different fire risks and its essential the assessment is not carried out on a generic or broad basis.

"Precautions companies may need to take include installing a fire detection and warning system, placing portable extinguishers, ensuring fire exit doors are accessible and unlocked, and putting up suitable fire-safety signs. High-risk buildings or areas may need more complex procedures in place.

"Employers will also be responsible for giving staff, and occasionally others, such as hotel guests or volunteer stewards, instructions. All employees should receive sufficient information and training about the risks in the premises. Some, such as fire marshals, will need more thorough training."

The new law will consolidate the two existing acts detailing fire safety legislation and around 130 sections from various local acts into one comprehensive order.

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