NEW FIRE regulations proposed by the government could make sprinklers obligatory in supermarkets and other large uncompartmented single story retail premises.
The recommendations are contained in an 175 page consultation paper on proposed amendments to Part B of the Building Regulations published by the Department of the Environment Transport and the Regions just before Christmas.
Nearly 50 proposals are listed, ranging from greater reliance on product certification and approved installer schemes to the provision of opening windows at first floor level in domestic dwellings. But it is the proposals for large uncompartmented buildings that could generate the greatest controversy.
While DETR experts believe sprinklers can be cost effective in retail premises, they have left similar industrial or storage facilities out of the proposals which they feel will not give economic returns. Insurance industry pressure group the Loss Prevention Council disagrees and said DETR had failed to allow for the economic impact of major fires on the local community.
An LPC spokesman said: 'It is not just the loss of lives or the damage to the building that should be counted. A major fire in a factory throws a lot of people out of work and on to welfare - something that sprinklers could prevent.'
He added that the LPC was still studying the paper and had not finalised its conclusions. 'It looks like a step forward, if not a major breakthrough.'
Retailers will also be affected by proposed changes to the regulations on cafes in department stores and storage in retail areas. The DETR believes that a new requirement for storage and retail areas to be separated by fire resisting construction should not represent a major financial burden.
But it is inviting comment on the cost implications of providing at least two separate escape routes from cafes, estimated to save no more than 10 fatalities and 50 injuries over a decade.