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Royal Berkshire’s fire safety inspectors to tighten focus on high-risk areas

Highly targeted business safety visits will be the first way in which Royal Berkshire sees a difference in the way its fire and rescue service now works.

Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service (RBFRS) will conduct fewer audits but focus on places where people are most at risk and where fire safety standards may not be being met.

The new approach began immediately at the end of April and changed the way it deploys its inspectors to carry out fire safety audits.

This change was consulted on during the recent service redesign consultation which concluded in March. Members of the Royal Berkshire Fire Authority unanimously approved the proposal at their meeting on Tuesday 18 April and aims to better target resources to safeguard lives and businesses across the county.

Consequently, RBFRS now intends to carry out 1,400 full fire safety audits per year but will be targeting those who are not complying or types of businesses where there is intelligence that standards may not be satisfactory.

RBFRS currently operates a risk-based inspection programme, whereby higher risk buildings, such as those where people sleep and/or are unfamiliar with the premises, receive audits more frequently than those presenting lower risks.

Group Manager Chris Bunyan said: “We carried out 1,800 visits last year – but, in 76 per cent of the audits carried out, business owners were, with ongoing support from us, making their buildings a safe working environment for their staff. From our perspective, the buildings were safe enough. So it was agreed that this may be creating an unnecessary burden on businesses and our staff could work more effectively by doing fewer but more focused visits.

“A more targeted approach on the remaining 24 percent of businesses that are more likely to need improvements would result in more work for fire safety officers, hence why fewer audits are likely to be completed.

“Complying with the law is not optional because failing to comply could cost lives.”

Following the change in approach, Fire Safety Inspectors have started carrying out unannounced fire safety inspections targeting high-risk areas.

During the audits, inspectors ensure that businesses are compliant with all fire safety regulations that apply to them. Anyone who has some control over the business must take reasonable steps to reduce the risk from fire and make sure people can escape safely. The regulations apply to virtually all properties apart from private dwellings.

As well as conducting the inspections, RBFRS provides comprehensive advice and this is available free on its website. Inspectors will continue to do all they can, including taking legal action, to help people meet their duty of providing adequate fire safety conditions.

You can find out more about business safety on the RBFRS website