New fire safety rules affecting all businesses in England and Wales will come into force in October, placing greater responsibilities on plant managers.
The new law will make managers at food plants and other businesses directly responsible for complying with the Fire Safety Order. A designated "responsible person" can be the employer and any other person who may have control of any part of the premises, according to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.
In all other premises the person or people in control of the premises will be responsible for fire safety.
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order, made in June 2005, is the biggest overhaul of fire safety legislation in decades. Northern Ireland and Scotland will operate under their own laws.
Under the rules current fire certificates will be abolished and will cease to have legal status. It covers "general fire precautions" and other fire safety duties which are needed to protect "relevant persons" in case of fire in and around most "premises".
The order requires managers to put fire precautions to in place "where necessary" and to the extent that it is reasonable and practicable in the circumstances of the case.
Plant managers designated as the "responsible person" will have to carry out a fire risk assessment that must focus on the safety in case of fire. The assessment should pay particular attention to those at special risk, such as the disabled and those with special needs, and must include consideration of any dangerous substance likely to be on the premises.
The assessment will help identify fire risks that can be removed or reduced. It will also allow managers to decide on the nature and extent of the general fire precautions necessary to protect people against the fire risks that remain.
Employers of five or more staff will have to record the significant findings of the assessment.
Responsibility for enforcement of the new rules will rest with the local fire and rescue service authority who will carry out regular inspections. Priority will be given to those premises presenting most risk to the community.
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 was approved by Parliament on 7 June 2005. Originally, government intended that it would come into force in April. In January the department announced it was deferring to give business and others involved in fire prevention more time to prepare for the changes.
The department is preparing free entry-level guides for each segment of industry. The guide for factories and warehouses is not yet available. Thw guide will be for all employers, managers, occupiers and owners of premises where the main use of the building or part of the building is a factory or warehouse.
More information is available at http://www.firesafetyguides.odpm.gov.uk