The Fire Safety SENSE Campaign is not against the regulations themselves - the RRFSO was intended as a deregulatory, self-assessment measure and specifically designed to be proportionate and risk-based.
The problem has arisen in how the RRFSO is being interpreted and enforced by the individual local Fire & Rescue Authorities (FRAs) - which even the Fire Safety Minister himself admits is often "over-zealous" and "disproportionate", and is thus "damaging" the tourism sector.
All the "case studies" received by the various organisations supporting the Campaign (for example, the B&B case studies), show that huge and widespread problems are being caused by the failure of FRAs to follow the proportional, common-sense, risk-based approach intended by the RRFSO, the Government's 'Enforcement Concordat' and the Health & Safety Executive's 'Enforcement Management Model' (fundamental to the latter is the principle that “enforcement action should be proportional to the health and safety risks and the seriousness of the breach”).
The Campaign is dismayed by the Fire Safety Minister's recent (12 August 2008) decision to decline to issue new guidance to FRAs. The Minister confirmed this decision in a letter on 2nd October.
The Campaign appeals to the Government to think again and to take the strong and immediate action required to ensure that the will of Parliament, Government policy on enforcement, and the Fire Safety Minister's own view that a "common-sense" approach by FRAs is crucial, prevails across the country in the way that the FRAs enforce the RRFSO.
In the words of our 10 Downing Street petition, we call on the the Prime Minister to:
"Act to ensure that the 2006 Fire Regulations ("RRFSO") are enforced proportionately and consistently without onerous burdens on very small premises not justified by the actual risk".
As to what specific actions by which Goverenment and official bodies will achieve this, we do not feel it is appropriate for our Campaign to try to impose a detailed solution. This is something for the Government department (DCLG), the Chief Fire Officer's Association (CFOA), and the FRAs and other public bodies to sort out. The Campaign's supporters are willing to play a constructive part in enabling a workable, practical solution.
We would suggest, however, that the solution must involve a combination of some or all of:
'Benchmark' examples of appropriate, minimal fire precautions for domestic-type premises
Guidelines for all fire inspection officers to ensure consistency and a pragmatic, commonsense approach
Government restatement of Parliament's intentions that the RRFSO was not intended to create onerous new burdens on small businesses
An additional, early-stage appeal/mediation process betweeen premises owners and FRAs
We will engage with any of the bodies concerned positively and constructively, and will wind up this Campaign as soon as we believe that action has been taken which will substantially change the situation, lift unnecessary burdens on very small premises, and bring "common-sense" to bear.
Until then the Fire Safety SENSE Campaign will work tirelessly towards achieving common-sense, and stopping the damage being done to tourism, employment, and entrepreneurship and to the livelihoods of home-owners and small businesses.
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Contact us at campaign@FireSafetySENSE.com