Enforcement policy

Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Authority (DSFRA) has a duty to enforce the provisions of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

The DSFRA aims to enforce this legislation fairly, effectively and efficiently, minimising the burden on individuals, businesses and organisations by focusing on ensuring that the non-domestic buildings in which people work, visit and enjoy leisure time have safe means of escape in the event of a fire.

This webpage explains, in general terms, the principles that Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service officers will follow when they are carrying out enforcement activities on behalf of DSFRA.

We recognise that the effectiveness of the legislation depends upon the compliance of those regulated and that most businesses and individuals will wish to comply with the law. We will assist and advise wherever possible while taking firm and appropriate action against those who flout the law or act irresponsibly.

Enforcement purpose

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The ultimate purpose of an enforcing authority is to ensure that duty holders manage and control risks effectively, thus preventing harm.

The term ‘enforcement’ has a wide meaning and applies to all dealings between the Service and those on whom the law places duties (responsible persons).

The purpose of enforcement is to:

  • ensure that responsible persons take action to deal immediately with serious risks
  • promote and achieve sustained compliance with fire safety law
  • ensure that responsible persons who breach fire safety requirements are held to account, which may include bringing alleged offenders before the courts.

Sources of information

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Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service is committed to facilitating access to information that will assist with the achievement of a safer community; this includes fire protection information. Our website has information on the following:

In addition, there are links to fire safety risk assessment guides produced by the government to help carry out risk assessments and identify the general fire precautions required.

Enforcement principles

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This Enforcement Policy Statement, and the enforcement principles which we follow are in accordance with the Regulators’ Code 2014 and the regulatory principles required under the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006.

These principles are:

Proportionality

To ensure that our enforcement action taken relates directly to:

  • the actual or potential risk due to fire
  • how far the fire protection standards are below what is expected
  • what actions have been taken by the duty holder to mitigate the risks.

We will take account of the circumstances of small regulated businesses including any difficulties they may have in complying and where appropriate, discuss options that will allow them to secure compliance.

Consistency

To ensure our inspectors make consistent and fair enforcement decisions we use a nationally recognised risk assessment based audit/inspection methodology.

Should enforcement action prove to be necessary, it will be based on the principles, expectations and methodology of the enforcement management model, considered national best practice. This model has been produced by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and adapted for use by fire and rescue authorities. It takes into account variables such as:

  • degree of risk
  • attitude and competence of duty holder
  • history of incidents or previous enforcement

We will have regard to the Primary Authority scheme when dealing with non-compliance and will discuss the circumstances of breaches with the local authority representative  

Transparency

To ensure that the enforcement action taken by DSFRA is easily understood and that a clear distinction is made between legal requirements and advice or guidance about what is desirable but not compulsory we will:

  • where possible always discuss the contents of an enforcement notice and, if possible, resolve any points of difference before serving it, the notice will state what needs to be done, why, and by when
  • in the case of a prohibition notice, explain why the prohibition is necessary.

Accountability

DSFRA is accountable to the community for its actions and will be judged against the principles within this Enforcement Policy Statement, all notices we serve will have guidance on the rights and timescales for a formal appeal.

Targeted

We will direct our resources at those premises that we perceive to be at higher risk. We will carry out our inspections in a way that is proportionate to risk, by taking account of the size and complexity of the premises, the activities involved, occupancy profiles and other relevant factors.

Enforcement action will be primarily focused on those directly responsible for the risk and who are best placed to control it.

We will use a wide range of tools, data sources and information systems to make sure our targeting is effective.
 

Promotion

We will endeavour to raise awareness about fire safety legal requirements, appropriate fire protection standards within premises and promote general good practices to raise the level of compliance with the law. This will be achieved by a variety of methods including, business education events, signposting of information from our website and answering general enquiries in the office or on-site.

To assist with compliance with the legislation, the Government have produced a suite of guidance documents for buildings that are used for different purposes. These guides are used by the Service to judge whether a premises has a reasonable level of fire safety provision and that people will be safe.

These documents are available free of charge on gov.uk.

The Authority takes the view that our Fire Safety Officers also have the right not to be subject to assault, abuse or intimidation and will investigate any instances where this occurs and where appropriate refer the matter to the police.

Levels of enforcement action

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The Authority will always seek to use enforcement action that is necessary and proportionate primarily to the circumstances of the offence and the risk to life, and in so doing will consider the following factors:

  • the size of the business or undertaking and the nature of its activities
  • the seriousness of compliance failure
  • the businesses past performance and its record of compliance
  • action is taken to prevent any recurrence
  • whether there has been an overt and deliberate failure to comply
  • legal, official or professional guidance.

Choices of enforcement approach available to the Service are:

  • educate and inform
  • work with the appropriate Primary Authority
  • serving of a statutory notice identifying the nature of the corrective action needed
  • issue of a prohibition/restriction of use notice
  • referral to other agencies
  • simple caution*
  • prosecution.

*a simple caution is a statement by an authorised officer, that is accepted in writing by the responsible person, that they have committed an offence for which there is a realistic prospect of conviction. A simple caution will only be used where a prosecution could be properly brought.

Prosecution

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The decision to prosecute will always take into account the criteria set down in ‘The Code for Crown Prosecutors’.

The following public interest criteria will be taken into account when deciding on the relevance of legal proceedings, although this list is not exhaustive, it includes the:

  • prevalence of the type of offence
  • need for a suitable deterrent
  • risk of danger or injury to the public
  • failure to comply with a statutory notice or to respond to advice about legal requirements
  • failure to comply with requests for information despite reminders
  • disregard of legal requirements for financial reward
  • a history of similar offences
  • persistent breaches of legislation
  • where fraud, knowledge of guilt, or gross negligence is a factor.

Where possible, the affected person will be informed as soon as sufficient evidence is obtained that a prosecution may follow.

All prosecutions will be brought without unnecessary delay and in line with Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service policy.

The Environment and Safety Information Act 1988

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This act requires Fire Services and Local Authorities to maintain a register of information concerning the issue of prohibition, alteration and enforcement notices, which must be open to inspection by the public free of charge.

Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service issue these types of notices under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. This Register is available on our website and discharges our responsibilities under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.
 

Comments and complaints

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Complaints and appeals

Where we take enforcement action - you can challenge our advice, actions or decisions by following the appeals process set out in the letter we sent to you notifying you of the action.

We are always willing to discuss with those affected the reasons why we have acted in a particular way or asked them to act in a particular way. The first thing to do is to let us know that you are unhappy by contacting us. 

In most cases, we will be able to address your dissatisfaction so that you don’t feel that you need to take it further. 

If you feel your concerns have not been adequately addressed, complaints about our service, or about the conduct of our officers, can be raised through the Service's complaints procedure.

Appealing against a Statutory Notice

A person on whom an Alterations Notice, an Enforcement Notice, a Prohibition Notice or a Notice given by the Authority under Article 37 (fire-fighters’ switches for luminous tube signs) is served, can legally appeal this Notice. 

To do so, you must appeal by way of complaint to the Magistrates’ Court in the area in which the premises are situated, within 21 days from the day on which this notice was served.

Article 35 of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 provides further information. 
 

Feedback

We value input from you to help us ensure our services and policies are meeting your needs. We would like to hear from you whether your experience of us has been good or in need of improvement. This helps us to ensure we keep doing the right things and make changes where we need to. We use customer satisfaction surveys from time to time but we would welcome your feedback at any time. Any compliments, comments and complaints that we receive will be acknowledged, considered and responded to.

This enforcement policy statement will be reviewed every three years.

  • Date published: November 2011
  • Last reviewed: 12 May 2021
  • Next review: May 2026