The government today welcomed a commitment from the Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) to work with businesses to improve how fire safety regulations are enforced.
Responding to the government’s Focus on Enforcement review, which identified a need for more consistent application of regulation and better guidance for companies on how to comply with the law, CFOA have committed to:
lead a Business Engagement Forum providing industry with the means to shape regulatory practices, raise future concerns and generate innovative solutions
create a professional, accredited, framework of competence for fire safety officers across the country
produce tailored support and guidance for the ‘supported living’ sector – to help iron out current confusion and inconsistency of approach which was identified by businesses and fire officers
provide clearer and more consistent support and direction to businesses – including consistency in formal Notices across all authorities, clarity on how identified failures of compliance can be addressed, and clearly distinguishing informal advice from compulsory requirements
promote the use, and acceptance, of recognised professional certification and accreditation for commercial fire risk assessors – giving businesses greater confidence that these services meet required standards and provide value for money
apply the learning from the current pilots of the Primary Authority model – which helps multi-site businesses work with Fire and Rescue Authorities in achieving and demonstrating safe operations
build on the good practice already developed by a number of Fire and Rescue Authorities in providing support to small business in particular
encouraging all Fire and Rescue Authorities to engage with Local Enterprise Partnerships to support better communication with companies
Business Minister Michael Fallon said:
Fire safety regulations must be robustly and clearly enforced to ensure safety without damaging productivity or business growth. Thanks to the government’s willingness to listen to business, the involvement of the Chief Fire Officers Association and their welcome and prompt response, firms can expect to be able to protect their staff, customers and premises without being held back by confusing or inconsistent advice. I will be watching the progress of these ambitious reforms with interest.
President of the Chief Fire Officers Association, Vij Randeniya added:
This is a new era for the delivery of fire safety regulations. CFOA have listened to the concerns of business contained within this review and will lead Fire and Rescue Services to deliver on our commitments published today. Business can be confident that we will continue to work closely with them to deliver cost-effective fire safety solutions that support economic growth, help businesses recover quicker in the event of a fire and builds safer communities.
The Fire Minister, Brandon Lewis said:
I very much welcome CFOA’s positive commitment to lead work to improve businesses’ experience of their engagement with fire and rescue authorities in support of compliance with the Fire Safety Order.
CFOA’s commitment to this work programme marks a step-change in leadership capacity within the fire sector, and a constructive first step towards delivering the business community’s aspirations for an improved regulatory framework. Fire safety officers need to play an increasingly supportive and collaborative regulatory role, balancing important public safety priorities with a clearer understanding of businesses’ reasonable expectations for clarity and consistency.
CFOA’s leadership is to be applauded.
The government’s Focus on Enforcement review was open during the summer and autumn of last year. It examined the enforcement of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, and asked businesses to identify any unnecessary, counter-productive or inconsistent demands that are placed on firms.
The review found that in some cases fire services contradict each other when providing advice and imposing requirements on companies and that there is no route to appeal or seek consistency on regulators’ decisions outside a lengthy determination process or costly legal action. Safety requirements can be ratcheted up from one inspection to the next at significant cost to a company but with no evidence of a change in risk.
Notes to Editors
The Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) is a professional membership association and a registered charity. CFOA members are drawn from all UK Fire & Rescue Services (FRSs) representing the senior executives and managers of the Service. Through the work of its members the Association supports the Fire and Rescue Services of the UK in its aspiration to protect the communities they serve and to continue to improve the overall performance of the fire sector. CFOA provides professional and technical advice to inform national fire policy.
The government is committed both to reducing overall regulatory burdens on business, and to ensuring that necessary regulations are enforced effectively, imposing minimum bureaucracy on compliant businesses. The government also plans to introduce a ‘growth duty’, which will impose a legal requirement on all non-economic regulators to consider the impact of their work on the growth prospects of the firms and sectors they serve.
Other reviews have engaged with sectors including coastal projects and investments, pubs, adult care homes, childcare, chemicals manufacturing and storage, small food manufacturing, pharmaceuticals manufacturing and production and volunteer events. There has also been a review of regulatory appeals mechanisms.
The Focus on Enforcement website allows comments to be posted ‘on the record’ or anonymously.
Primary Authority enables a business operating across multiple local authority areas to form a partnership with a single authority, which then: issues advice on regulatory compliance which must be respected by other local authorities; ensures enforcement action taken by all authorities is consistent with that advice; and can agree an inspection plan with the business to manage a targeted and risk-based programme of planned inspections. The approach is currently being tested by the Better Regulation Delivery Office, CFOA, Fire and Rescue Authorities and business groups, including testing out different ways of achieving the same outcomes either formally under the Primary Authority scheme, or through other models.
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Focus on Enforcement reviews focus on the way regulation is delivered and compliance is achieved – whether through inspections, advice or enforcement – not on the regulations themselves. (A separate initiative – Red Tape Challenge – invites comments and ideas on what regulations should stay, be improved, or be scrapped altogether). Each Focus on Enforcement review starts with a 6 to 8 week evidence-gathering phase.
The government’s economic policy objective is to achieve ‘strong, sustainable and balanced growth that is more evenly shared across the country and between industries’. It set four ambitions in the ‘Plan for Growth’, published at Budget 2011:
- to create the most competitive tax system in the G20
- to make the UK the best place in Europe to start, finance and grow a business
- to encourage investment and exports as a route to a more balanced economy
- to create a more educated workforce that is the most flexible in Europe.
Work is underway across government to achieve these ambitions, including progress on more than 250 measures as part of the Growth Review. Developing an Industrial Strategy gives new impetus to this work by providing businesses, investors and the public with more clarity about the long-term direction in which the government wants the economy to travel.