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Unsurprisingly, the BSI had, during this period, received numerous enquires from the public as to whether they had produced relevant guidance on fire risk assessment. To start afresh and develop a full British Standard on the subject would have taken several years.
In contrast, the need for guidance was pressing and was about to become more urgent with the future fundamental reshaping of fire safety legislation which has now come about with the introduction of the Fire Safety Order in England and Wales, and similar legislative change in Scotland and, from next year, Northern Ireland.
The lack of definitive guidance on fire risk assessments arose, in part, from a desire on the part of Government to avoid being prescriptive.
The thrust of the Workplace Regulations was non-prescriptive, and there was a clear policy to move away from what many had claimed to be the over-prescriptive approach adopted in previous legislation; this philosophy extended to the avoidance of any clear definition of the content and format of a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment.
The situation was made more complex when, in 1997, Great Britain introduced the Fire Precautions (Workplace) Regulations, with guidance from the Government that could, at best, be described as sparse.
It adapted the five steps to risk assessment promulgated by the health and safety profession, but these did not fit perfectly to a fire risk assessment; the uncertainty continued.
This was of concern to the IFE since, very often, samples of applicants' fire risk assessments were not considered by the IFE to satisfy the requirements of legislation.
This reinforced the need for appropriate guidance on fire risk assessment, as well as suggesting a need for benchmarks in respect of competence.
BSI's first thought was to commission a textbook on the subject.
However, a textbook would only have constituted one author's personal ideas on fire risk assessment.