After 10 years the RRFSO proves its worth

22nd November 2016

I'm Derek Portsmouth, National Sales Leader UK & Ireland at Notifier by Honeywell and in this blog I'd like to assess the impact that the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRFSO) has had since its introduction 10 years ago.

When it became law on 1st October 2006, the RRFSO represented a step change in the way protecting occupants within buildings is addressed. The requirement for a dedicated ‘responsible person' to risk assess a premises and ensure that any installed life safety equipment is fully maintained and fit for purpose was one of the most important pieces of legislation in recent times.

The tragic events that took place at Rosepark Care Home in South Lanarkshire in 2004, when a fire broke out and led directly to the deaths of 14 elderly residents, highlighted why the RRFSO was needed. It brought into sharp focus why a risk assessment is necessary but even today the message still isn't getting through to some people. In 2015, the London Fire Brigade (LFB) secured the biggest fine ever against a private individual when the former owner of The Radnor Hotel in Bayswater, Salim Patel, was fined £200,000 and ordered to pay £29,922 court costs after pleading guilty to seven offences under the RRFSO.

Article 17 of the RRFSO states that ‘the responsible person must ensure that the premises and any facilities, equipment and devices provided in respect of the premises... are subject to a suitable system of maintenance and are maintained in an efficient state, in efficient working order and in good repair'. Any failure that leads to loss of life, personal injury or damage to property will expose a responsible person and could lead to prosecution, while major breaches can result in unlimited fines and up to two years in prison.

While in theory there should be the same rigorous and thorough approach to assessing risk and the potential for danger within any building, this is simply not the case in reality. Although some individuals wilfully neglect their responsibilities, others are simply unaware of the extent of their duties. While the former are far more overt in their flouting of the law, the fact is that ignorance is just as much of a problem.

When it comes to carrying out a risk assessment, a responsible person can complete a suitable training course. However, in the event that a responsible person does not have the required competency to carry out this procedure they should choose an organisation with third party accreditation that is competent to carry out the task in accordance with legislative and regulatory requirements, along with appropriate standards.

Proof of competency such as the BRE BTEC Professional Diploma in Fire Risk Assessment qualification, or third party certification via the BAFE or FRACS schemes should be sought. Professional bodies such as the Institution of Fire Engineers (IFE), the National Association of Healthcare Fire Officers (NAHFO) the Institute of Fire Prevention Officers (IFPO) and the Fire Industry Association (FIA) maintain registers of suitable life safety professionals. As a word of caution, there are many offerings in the market place for third party certification schemes, many of these do not have credibility and are worthless as they are not UKAS accredited.

Using correctly skilled, trained and qualified personnel to take care of all aspects of a life system is also imperative. For example, every Notifier Engineered Systems Distributor (ESD) will be third party accredited, trained and have direct access to extensive products, tools, technical and application support. As a result, end users can rest assured they are working with a competent company that has the expertise necessary to guarantee the highest standards of fire safety - which means the designated responsible person or business will meet their legislative obligations under the RRO.

According to figures published by the Home Office there has been a 22 per cent decrease in fire related fatalities since 2005-06. However, that good news is tempered by the fact that the number of people dying in fire related incidents in England saw its biggest percentage increase in 20 years for the year 2015-16, when 303 people died. The figures showed that in 2015-16 fire services across England attended around 162,000 fires - an increase of 7,000 from the previous year. That said, the number of fires attended has been on a long-term downward trend, meaning that despite the increase in 2015-16, total fires are still 52 per cent lower than a decade ago. It should be remembered though that these figures also include domestic premises.

There's no doubt that over the last 10 years the RRFSO has had a positive impact and I think we should all celebrate its success. Even so, the Home Office figures highlight that there's much more to be done and, in my opinion, a greater emphasis on using third party accredited people and organisations to design, install and maintain fire detection systems will only improve matters further.