June 18 2004.

Plans to improve fire safety for businesses which will simplify the law while placing a greater focus on fire prevention have been laid before Parliament.

The new proposals will place the responsibility for fire safety on the employer or 'responsible person' for that building or premises. The employer will have to assess the risks of fire and take steps to reduce or remove them.

They will also have to meet certain specific requirements such as making sure that there are adequate means of escape and the right sort of fire fighting equipment. The risk assessment would have to be changed as circumstances change.

Once the Order becomes law, businesses will no longer need a fire certificate. Fire and rescue authorities will of course continue to inspect premises and ensure they have adequate fire precautions in place.

The reform repeals the Fire Precautions Act 1971 and amends or removes wherever possible the many provisions dealing with fire safety contained in other legislation. These will be replaced by a single Order applying the risk assessment principles introduced by the Fire Precautions (Workplace) Regulations 1997.