Yesterday the fire alarm company did their inspection. A couple of flourescent tubes changed and the alarms tested; fifteen minutes and the guy was finished.
It wasn't until after he had gone that I began wondering what was going on. It seemed like he'd done the checks quite recently. Why would he be back so soon? A little detective work soon threw light on it. He was on a quarterly cycle of inspections. He turns up every three months. We pay for each visit. Plus any "consumables" he encounters.
Fire safety isn't something you want to slash budgets on. But the truth is we are entirely dependent on "experts" to advise us and guide us. Some of these, I suspect, are less scrupulous than I feel they might be.
I do not know the laws on fire safety. Because we have letting rooms here I suspect the requirements are much greater than a normal pub business. To compound the problem it would seem that some years ago legislation was passed requiring "the responsible person" (where have I heard that expression before?) to evaluate the risks and conduct an assessment.
In the past a local authority figure, probably a fire officer, would visit, make an evaluation and give instructions for how to comply with it, and then issue a certificate. That was ended.
Now there was to be no more issuing of a Fire Certificate. You'd need to do the test yourself or, more likely, delegate the task to a specialist. A file would need to be kept. One which catalogues the checks, tests, and upgrading of equipment, alarms and procedures. A file available for inspection by any of the agencies authorised to check such files.
What it seems to say is that we (the responsible people) must become thoroughly familiar with the current law concerning fire safety, understand all of the factors involved, the latest methods and technologies and implement them all, recording the facts as we do so, so that when an inspection team calls they can check we've done everything required.
Forgive me for sounding stupid ~ but I don't think that is reasonable. Aren't we busy enough?
How many areas must we become experts in?
I don't believe any licensee can reasonable grasp the complexities of income tax, VAT, food hygene, licensing law, employment law, discriminatory law and weights & measures AND become conversant in the vaguaries of fire safety law. It simply isn't possible.
I challenge any licensee out there to be able, without reference to books or other sources, to explain to me the different VAT rules on the sale of separate components of an ostrich (feathers, eggs, skin, meat etc), the regulations concerning the disposal of old low-energy light bulbs, the law concerning the display of a TEN when the holder isn't present and the correct contents of a first aid box. Its an impossible position. Especially when many of us are trying to simply keep our businesses afloat.
Small wonder then that we end up paying experts to ensure we fulfil these regulations. They are supposed to check for us.
But now I have to put in place checks on the checkers. I've to ensure that I meet my obligations but not do so by bleeding my business un-necessarily.
So I've now to study the Fire Precautions (Workplace) Regulations 1997 (ammended 1999) and a lot of other paperwork to discover if my fire alarm company is meeting my obligations - or milking me for money.
It's a wonder licensees can trust anyone.