FIRE SAFETY IN BUILDINGS IN IRELAND: LEGAL FRAMEWORK
The primary legislation in Ireland regarding fire safety in buildings is:
- Fire Services Act 1981 & 2003.
- Building Control Act 1990 & 2007.
- Health & Safety at Work Act 2005.
The fire services act & the building control act are concerned with the physical building structure and how it was or will be constructed with respect to the protection of the building and its occupants in the event of a fire.
The health & safety at work act is more focused on an employer’s duty of care to his/her employees with regards to providing a safe place to work in all matters relating to health & safety and some of this does relate to fire safety.
All public buildings in this country, including existing and proposed new buildings (except single family dwelling houses) are subject to the provisions of The Fire Services Act 1981/2003 irrespective of when they were constructed.
All buildings (including single family dwelling houses) in this country constructed after July 1992 are also subject to the provisions of the building control act 1990/2007. Compliance with part B, fire safety and part M, access of the building control act must be formalised by way of a fire safety certificate and a disability access certificate respectively (except single family dwelling houses).
All existing buildings in this country whether built before or after 1992 must comply with the fire safety provisions set out in the fire services act 1981/2003. This in effect means that all buildings including pre 1992 buildings must provide the same standard of fire safety measures as buildings constructed after 1992, the only difference being that pre 1992 buildings are not required by law to have their fire safety formalised by way of a fire safety certificate application. However if an old building requires that construction works (except “minor works”) be carried out in order that it does comply with fire safety provisions as set out in the fire services act1981/2003, these works are then subject to the provisions of the building control act 1990/2007 and a fire safety certificate application is required. It is our experience that in this instance most local authorities and fire service offices require that the entire building which will be affected by these improvement works be subject to the full rigour of the building control act and all of the recommendations and regulations and control regulations made under the building control act 1990/2007.
The Fire Services Act sets out that:
a. The duty of care” in respect to Fire Safety in Buildings rests with the Owner/Occupier.
b. Local Fire Authorities have various powers of inspection and enforcement for on/safety measures in existing Buildings.
Section 18(2) of the Fire Services Act, 1981 & 2003 is quoted as follows: –
“It shall be the duty of every person having control over premises to which this section applies to –
(a) take all reasonable measures to guard against the outbreak of fire on such premises,
(b) provide reasonable fire safety measures for such premises and prepare and provide appropriate fire safety procedures for ensuring the safety of persons on such premises,
(c) ensure that the fire safety measures and procedures referred to in paragraph (b) are applied at all times, and
(d) ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, the safety of persons on the premises in the event of an outbreak of fire whether such outbreak has occurred or not.”
A person convicted for an offence under the above may be liable to a maximum fine of €12,697.38 and/or imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years.