Accelerator: Red tape bonfire

The new fire regulations - The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order, which came into effect in October 2006, changed the nature of fire safety law. The new regulations put the emphasis on preventing fires and reducing risk and make it the responsibility of employers to ensure the safety of everyone who uses their premises - and also the immediate vicinity of the premises. Crucially, this change does away with the need for a fire certificate, which, until the new Order, had been issued by the local fire service.

by Khalid Aziz

It all sounds quite positive but, one year on, has the new law really achieved anything other than place yet another burden on business? Has it created more red tape to ensnare unwitting employers, particularly when it comes to yet another of those all-encompassing risk assessments that few understand but which produce yet more money-spinning non-jobs for the clipboard-wielders?

What is the fire service for? To put out fires - and, of course, it will still do that. When we dial 999 we can rely on the brave boys from the local fire brigade to turn up and do the necessary at home or at business premises. That bit still works very well. But the fire service's relationship with the business community began to deteriorate a year ago when the Government effectively drove them apart.

It's worth remembering how fire brigades first started in Britain. It was in about 1600 that organised brigades were formed in response to the desire of the new insurance companies to see some protection for the buildings they covered. 'Fire marks', the wall plates supplied by an insurance company as proof that you had paid your premium and were covered, were screwed to a building's facade. The trouble was that an insurance company's own fire brigade would often hurry past a blazing building that sported a rival's fire mark in search of a building bearing their own plate. So it soon made sense to amalgamate the brigades under the local authority. And that essentially is how things were for the next 400 years or so.

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