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Fire chiefs criticise 'do it yourself' checks on building safety

FIRE CHIEFS fear proposed fire safety reforms could lead to inadequate checking of fire performance in tall buildings.

They say firefighters' lives could be put at risk as a result, especially in extreme events like last year's World Trade Center attacks.

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister recently published proposals that checking of fire safety in buildings 'should be risk assessment based with responsibility for fire safety resting with the person responsible for the premises'.

Currently local authorities and fire officers must check completed buildings and issue a fire certificate under the Fire Precautions Act 1971.

It is estimated that repeal of the act would save British business £1.7M a year in the administration fees spent obtaining a fire certificate.

Hereford & Worcester Fire Brigade chief fire officer David O'Dwyer fears the new regime may not be as robust as before.

He is concerned that the guidance for building owners on how to do risk assessments will not be explicit enough.

'Risk assessment is a very vague term. It also doesn't make clear who would have responsibility for inspection, ' he said.

'We don't know if there would still be any system of random sampling or issuing of prohibition notices.

'The inspection regime still needs to be overt. We suspect there are many building owners who would not do enough.

'There could be a multiplicity of different standards throughout the country, ' O'Dwyer warned.

INFOPLUS (see cover feature P14)

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