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Minister addresses FSF Parliamentary Seminar

The Fire Safety Enforcement – Fit for purpose seminar, held in the House of Commons on 27 November, was a sell-out success, attracting delegates from all across the fire sector to hear a variety of industry experts discuss issues relating to fire safety legislation and enforcement.

Speaking at the event, Fire Minister Brandon Lewis MP thanked the Fire Sector Federation (FSF) and the All-Party Parliamentary Fire Safety & Rescue Group for arranging the seminar and praised the FSF for playing an “increasingly important role in pulling all parts of the fire industry together.”

Mr Lewis outlined a new Government initiative aimed at ensuring effective, consistent and proportionate enforcement of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order (RRFSO). He explained that the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) is working with the Chief Fire Officers’ Association (CFOA) and the Local Government Association to assess a statutory and a voluntary model for a Primary Authority, which would work with companies to help them achieve compliance nationwide.

A pilot scheme, which aims to test whether a Primary Authority could work alongside the existing legislative and policy framework of Integrated Risk Management Planning (IRMP) and the premises-specific focus of the fire safety regulations, is due to be implemented in early January 2013.

The initiative was broadly welcomed by business and enforcement representatives at the event. Abigail Miller, chair of the British Retail Consortium Health and Safety Group and head of safety for Homebase and Argos called for the Primary Authority to be statutory, claiming that voluntary schemes had already proved to be unsuccessful.

Describing inconsistent enforcement as a major issue, she said that retailers often received varying advice and inconsistent enforcement at a local level, creating a significant challenge for multi-site operators. Simone Plaut of the Care Management Group also welcomed the move, declaring that, in her experience, even sites on opposite sides of the same street might be offered contrasting opinions on fire safety measures if visited by different fire officers.

Meanwhile, CFOA vice-president Paul Fuller called for the scheme to be non-statutory, claiming that inconsistencies between different fire authorities mainly resulted from the IRMP process, with features that present an uncontrolled risk in one area often being less prominent elsewhere.

Declaring that the pilot scheme would consider the costs and benefits of both models, Mr Lewis said:

“There can be no question that increased partnership working between businesses and fire and rescue authorities on fire safety compliance can bring real benefits and efficiencies to both parties. Accessible and proportionate advice on compliance, which meets business needs whilst ensuring an appropriate level of public safety has to be both a shared objective and an achievable goal.”

Click here to download a full report and a selection of papers from the event

Minister addresses FSF Parliamentary Seminar