1. Will the abolishing of fire certificates mean premises will be less safe from fire?
No. Safety and reduced casualties from fire are at the heart of the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 and that includes the fire safety regime for non-domestic premises. The current legislation maintains and enhances the protection afforded by previous legislation to users of premises (and others who might be affected by fire on the premises).
The current legislation is based on the principles of ongoing risk assessment. This means that fire safety should be at the forefront of the minds of all those with fire safety responsibilities rather than the previous situation in which fire safety was often thought to have been dealt with because a fire certificate had been issued.
2. How does the fire safety legislation in Scotland differ from the legislation in England and Wales?
The fire safety regime in Scotland is similar in principle to that operated in England and Wales: both are based on the principles of risk assessment and both extend beyond workplaces to all non-domestic premises.
However, there are differences between the two regimes with the main ones being in respect of terminology and how far the legislation applies to domestic premises. Information about the England and Wales legislation - the Regulatory reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 - can be accessed on the website of the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Order itself can be accessed here.
3. Can licensing authorities - eg for HMOs or liquor - impose terms and conditions relating to fire safety?
No. Licensing authorities cannot impose fire safety requirements where premises are covered by Part 3 of the 2005 Act.
Section 71 of the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 states that, where an enactment provides for the licensing of any premises (or a person in respect of premises), "a term, condition or restriction imposed in connection with the issue under such an enactment of the licence shall be of no effect in so far as it relates to any matter in relation to which requirements or prohibitions are or could be imposed by virtue of this Part" i.e. general fire safety matters. Responsibility for enforcement of general fire safety duties in premises subject to licence and covered by the 2005 Act lies with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.
However, in certain cases, licensing authorities must consult interested parties, such as the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, in respect of licence applications received. If the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service objects to an application or supplies the licensing authority with information that there are deficiencies in fire safety measures the licensing authority can take this information into account and may, if it sees fit, refuse to grant or renew a licence on this basis.
4. How do I get further information about the law and my rights and responsibilities?
Part 3 of the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 and related subordinate legislation is the law in respect of general fire safety in Scotland. Click on "Fire (Scotland) Act" in the menu to access links to the legislation.
If you have any general queries about the new legislation, you can contact Fire and Rescue Division by sending an e-mail to FireScotlandAct@scotland.gsi.gov.uk or phoning 0131 244 3018. In addition, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service may be able to assist with any enquiries (check their website or look in the phonebook for contact details). Please note, however, that if you have any questions about your legal rights or obligations in specific circumstances, you should seek independent legal advice.
5. If I purchase fire protection products or use the services of an installation or maintenance contractor, how can I be sure about the quality of the product or service?
Contractors should be competent and fire protection products should be fit for their purpose and properly installed and maintained. Third party certification is one method of providing a reasonable assurance of quality.
Third-party certification or assurance for products and services involves a certification body independently checking competencies and processes and that standards are being met. If the certification body is reputable, this can be an effective means of providing assurance.
Products and services that are not third-party approved are not necessarily less reliable, but third-party quality assurance can offer the comfort that products and services are fit for purpose.