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Govt puts back fire regs until October

MATERIALS - Fire Safety Order postponed because guidance on risk assessment is not ready

MEASURES to reform fire safety regulations, due to come into force in April, will not now be implemented until October.

Officials at the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister put the launch of the Fire Safety Order back after concerns were raised that businesses had not had sufficient time to respond to the guidance.

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order was due to be introduced in April after it was approved by Parliament in June last year but there have been delays in writing guidance for the various sectors affected by the rule changes.

The Government intends to bring the regulations into force alongside similar rules being introduced in Scotland.

Scottish authorities have delayed the introduction of the regulations until October for similar reasons and the ODPM is likely to attempt to marry the two introduction dates.

Industry sources say the sector-specific guides being written for educational premises clashed with those being prepared for healthcare establishments, which could lead to confusion among fire protection product manufacturers, contractors and building owners.

One industry insider blasted the handling of the safety order's introduction. He said: 'Putting the introduction on hold makes perfect sense but there was little choice. It has been incompetently handled.' He claimed the introduction of the order will force millions of non-domestic building owners to carry out fire risk assessments without knowing the full details of how they are to be carried out.

He added: 'Something like two million building owners were expected to carry out risk assessments without having had time to absorb any guidance. There was no choice but to delay its introduction.' Jim Fitzpatrick, the minister responsible for fire safety, said that the ODPM had listened to concerns from industry in deciding to delay its introduction.

He said: 'Despite extensive work with stakeholders it is clear that all the guidance documents will not be ready for a full 12week gap between publication and coming into force in April.' paul. thompson@emap. com

Construction News is hosting a conference on the changes to fire safety policy in London on February 8. For details, call 0845 056 8069.