The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 has expanded in scope - and in the wake of Greenfell, penalties for non-compliance are increasing. Do you know what is required of you to protect the occupants of your buildings?
What is the RRO (Regulatory Reform Act)?
The RRO (Regulatory Reform Act, 2005) replaced around 70 separate pieces of legislation that previously governed commercial fire safety. It is intended to ensure that there is a designated person responsible for taking reasonable measures to prevent the outbreak of fire for every building covered by the act. That same person also needs to do everything possible to make sure that occupants can escape safely from the building if a fire ever breaks out.
Does the RRO apply to you?
The law applies to; commercial businesses, shops, offices, care facilities, factories, warehouses, community halls, schools, pubs, restaurants, hostels, and hotels. Significantly, it applies to any business/person that is responsible for the common areas of ‘multi-family housing units’ - including those in high rise apartment blocks.
Who is the ‘responsible person’?
Under RRO 2005, you’re the person responsible for fire safety if you are deemed to have control of the premises. For example if you’re:
- an employer
- the owner of the building
- the landlord of the building
- a facilities manager, building manager, managing agent, risk assessor, or anyone else with control of the premises.
What are the duties of the 'responsible person' under the RRO?
The responsible person must carry out a fire risk assessment of their building, review it regularly and have plans in place to deal with a fire emergency:
What does the fire risk assessment entail?
The risk assessment includes certain required steps:
Step 1 – Identify any hazards within your premises
Sources of fuel, oxygen and ignition must be stored separately and correctly to prevent accidental combustion
Step 2 – Identify the people at risk
Are there any particularly vulnerable people who will be at extra risk in the event of a fire? These include children, old people and invalids, who may need extra help to ensure they are alerted and evacuated effectively. Make sure you know how you intend to plan for their safe evacuation in an emergency.
Step 3 – Evaluate, remove, reduce and protect from risk
Assess and remove fire hazards
You need to evaluate the specific level of risk in your premises and act to remove fire hazards where possible.
- Make sure you separate potentially flammable materials from sources of ignition
- Replace flammable materials with less risky materials or, ideally, flame-retardant material
- Have a safe smoking policy
Assess requirements for fire detection and alarm systems:
There must be a suitable fire detection and alarm system in place. This will depend on the size and type of premises you are responsible for - but it must be able to detect a fire and trigger an evacuation in ALL circumstances. You can find out which category of fire alarm is suitable for your building using our guide here.
Have a means of extinguishing small fires available
It may be suitable to have a multipurpose extinguisher with a guaranteed shelf life
- You should have one fire extinguisher for every 200m² of your premises
There must be suitable fire doors throughout your premises
- All fire safety exit doors on the escape route must be usable without a key or specialist knowledge
- In premises used by a large volume of people, doors on the escape route should be usable by push pads or push bars
You must ensure there is access to safe escape routes in the event of fire
You must ensure there is an escape route for every occupant of the building and that effective emergency signage is provided to guide those escaping a fire.
Step 4 – Record, plan, inform, instruct and train
You will also need to
- Record any major findings and action you have taken.
- Discuss and work with other responsible people.
- Prepare an emergency plan.
- Inform and instruct relevant people.
- Provide training.
Step 5 – Review and Revise.
In addition, your risk assessment must be regularly reviewed and revised - to ensure it remains accurate and fit for purpose.
Do you need to implement an EAS (evacuation alert system)?
Those responsible for fire safety in multi-occupied residential buildings should also consider if they need to fit evacuation alert systems in line with the requirements listed in BS 8629:2019
There is currently a legal requirement for residential buildings over 18 meters high in Scotland to be fitted with an EAS, and it is a strong recommendation for new and existing high rises in England and Wales. In time, though, it is expected that English law will follow suit with Scotland to make EAS mandatory in certain buildings.
The Fire Safety Bill 2021 - what you need to know
Following the Grenfell disaster, the government introduced a bill in 2019 to make changes to the RRO.
This bill, which will shortly become law, provides further clarification of the responsibilities for duty holders in multi-occupied, residential buildings.
Part of the intention is to ensure that communal and outside areas within blocks of flats are fully risk assessed and subject to fire protection measures. It is also intended to ensure that responsibility for these areas is clearly understood and defined.
- The structure and external walls of the building, including cladding, balconies and windows.
- Entrance doors to individual flats that open into common parts
Both substandard cladding, window and fire doors have been found to have contributed significantly to the Grenfell tragedy.
More regulation coming soon
It is expected that more of the recommendations of the Grenfell enquiry will also become law in the near future following the introduction of the Building Safety Bill. Duty holders will need to implement and prove they have implemented the following:
- Regular inspections of lifts and the reporting of results to the local FRS
- ensuring evacuation plans are reviewed and regularly updated
- personal evacuation plans are in place for vulnerable residents
- ensuring fire safety instructions are given to residents in a form that they can understand
- ensuring individual flat entrance doors comply with current standards
There are new & serious penalties for lawbreakers
The new additions to the RRO (and those still in the pipeline) are providing further protections for building occupants and giving new powers to authorities to fine and imprison those who flout the regulation. Even minor penalties can now include a fine of up to £5,000. Meanwhile, major infringements can see penalties range from unlimited fines to a 2-year prison sentence.
The RRO has been strengthened - businesses and building owners must act
The scope of the RRO has changed and those who own and manage residential blocks of all kinds must take note. Following Grenfell, major risks and safety issues have been highlighted that have fallen through the gaps for many years. It is your responsibility to ensure that you are aware of the changes to the law and meet any new regulation that applies to you.