There can be smoke without fire

In the ‘good old days’ – when fire safety was governed by the Fire Precautions Act (now repealed) – I was an inspecting supervisory/policy officer for the London Fire Brigade and my roles respectively included both doing inspections of premises and supervising and monitoring other inspecting officers.

Our brief at the time was to help, assist and befriend organisations to help them to achieve a satisfactory standard of fire safety compliance.

This meant looking at the minimum standard of fire safety that was required and helping them to achieve it. The giving them the advice they needed to assist them in moving up to the next level.

These days things appear to have changed, instead of providing support and advice it appears that all the efforts of the inspecting authorities are being targeted on enforcement. Far from being helpful and aimed at encouraging self-management, I think it’s prescriptive, oppressive and dictatorial!

Organisations are being backed into a corner often as a result of receiving something that looks like an enforcement notice – triggering panic action.

For the record; before an enforcement notice is issued a notification will be issued ahead of it to advise and warn the organisation that this is in progress. An enforcement notice can’t just be issued by any officer, they must be justified and signed at very high level.

However, informal notices – that look just like an enforcement notice (until you read the small print) are simply pre-produced, electronically signed documents that any enforcement officer can produce. These are not subject to the pre-warning process and simply arrive in the post – causing unnecessary stress within the organisation. In fact, they don’t have any legal weight at all.

I think it’s immoral that authorities are producing documents that look like enforcement notices, but aren’t. Instead of encouraging people to institute good practice, they’re making organisations take action based on fear.

If you receive an ‘enforcement notice’ without any prior warning – read the small print and, if you find it states that it is not an enforcement notice, you don’t need to panic! It may be intended to be a more friendly way of doing business – in my opinion, it isn’t!