Business and Enterprise Minister Mark Prisk said:
“Business owners rightly have important legal responsibilities to protect their employees and customers from the risk of fire. But finding helpful and authoritative advice on what fire prevention and protection measures are appropriate and cost-effective may sometimes be a challenge.
“Determining precisely how best to comply – without giving rise to unnecessary costs – can sometimes be a real issue. That’s why I’m urging anyone who has experienced problems in seeking to comply with fire safety requirements to visit the Focus on Enforcement website and to let us know your views. We know there’s some good practice out there too. So tell us on the website where you have had good advice and support.
“This is your chance to tell us about what works for you – and what doesn't – and to make sure that, wherever possible, compliance advice and enforcement go with the grain of business aspirations.”
Fire Minister Bob Neill said:
“This review will help ensure that regulations are applied in a common sense way, ensuring that we continue to protect lives and property from harm."
The review has also been welcomed by the Chief Fire Officer Association. Neil Gibbins, Deputy Chief Fire Officer at Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service, and the Chief Fire Officers Association's strategic lead for fire protection, said:
"Fire and Rescue Services are keen to help businesses stay safe from fire, and to continue to drive down fire deaths, injuries and losses. If there are ways of achieving the necessary levels of safety more efficiently we would welcome feedback from businesses.”
John Walker, National Chairman, Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), said:
“The FSB welcomes the work of the Focus on Enforcement project. This is a good opportunity for businesses to raise concerns and suggest improvements to the way that regulations are enforced. There are some good examples of regulators working proactively with businesses to ensure that they understand the pressures that small firms are under and support them where they can. We hope that best practice of this kind is disseminated to all regulators.”
The range of issues on which the campaign is calling for evidence includes:
· How and where companies access information about fire safety issues, legal obligations, and how to comply with the law.
· What information they need, and how they would like to access advice and guidance on fire safety matters.
· Activity undertaken by fire and rescue authorities to support business compliance.
· Interactions businesses have with fire and rescue authorities on their premises.
The campaign allows comments to be posted ‘on the record’ or anonymously on the website. We are also looking to hear views from and about commercial providers of fire safety information. We would be interested to hear if there is any evidence of companies being encouraged to undertake unnecessary compliance activity; for example, where regulation does not actually require a company to do something, but they are led to believe it does.
Join the conversation on Twitter using the #focusenforce hashtag.
Notes to editors:
1. Improving Fire Safety Enforcement, which is the review theme to be launched, is now live on the Focus on Enforcement website and can be found at: http://discuss.bis.gov.uk/focusonenforcement. The site gives individuals and businesses the opportunity to suggest areas for future reviews of compliance and enforcement arrangements, and to provide evidence on areas currently ‘in focus’. Users of the website can also currently provide their feedback on their experiences of enforcement in:
o Pubs, in particular community pubs (until 17 August )
o Investments and running large projects on the coast (until 21 September).
2. The focus of all these reviews is on the way regulation is delivered and compliance is achieved – whether through advice, inspections or enforcement – not about the regulations themselves.
3. Each review starts with a 5-6 week evidence-gathering phase.
4. The scope of the Improving Fire Safety Enforcement Review encompasses:
o The regulatory activity undertaken by English fire and rescue authorities in relation to the statutory requirement on businesses and others to comply with the provisions of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
o It will look at the issues faced by businesses, in particular by small and medium-sized businesses (i.e. those with 250 or fewer employees), including:
- how and where companies access information about fire safety issues, their legal obligations, and how to comply with the law
- what information they need, and how they would like to access advice and guidance on fire safety matters
- activity undertaken by fire and rescue authorities to support business compliance
- how the full range of regulatory activity (see below) impacts on the running of businesses
- the interactions businesses have with fire and rescue authorities on their premises
- any ‘knock-on effects’ arising from compliance with fire safety legislation – for example, where action to meet fire safety regulations leads to additional requirements to meet other sets of regulations.
‘Regulatory Activity’ in this context includes:
o provision of advice on compliance with the law
o fire and rescue authority audits of premises, inspections visits and assessments of premises and equipment
o any requirements to make formal applications, or provide specific information
o any requirements on businesses and their staff to attend courses or obtain particular qualifications
o formal enforcement proceedings taken against individuals or organisations in the event of failure to comply with regulations (we cannot consider comments on specific cases unless all proceedings have finished – but we can consider general evidence in relation to enforcement proceedings).
5. We are interested in examples of good practice that is helpful to business in meeting their obligations, and suggestions for improving the way things work.
6. We would also be interested to learn of issues encountered where third parties may be felt to be encouraging companies to undertake unnecessary compliance activity e.g. where regulation does not actually require a company to do something, but they are led to believe it does.
7. The review will also seek to identify examples of effective, tailored and easy to understand guidance and advice for businesses, and good regulatory delivery that is risk-based, focused on achieving compliance and supporting business growth.
8. 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.
9. Guidance on fire safety for businesses can be found here: http://www.communities.gov.uk/fire/firesafety/firesafetylaw/
10. BIS's online newsroom contains the latest press notices, speeches, as well as video and images for download. It also features an up to date list of BIS press office contacts. See http://www.bis.gov.uk/newsroom.