What is fire regulation? a critical study of death or action


1. 0 Historical Background

There has long been a concern with fire safety in buildings dating back many centuries. The earliest references to rules or what could now be termed legislation date back to Emperor Nero after the fire of Rome. These rules appear somewhat reactive in that they where enacted following a major incident or tragedy of the time. The reasons for their introduction has changed little over the centuries with the public and governing authoritiesanxietyand concern to the fore in demanding actions following a serious loss of life or property. As time progressed the influence of European Directives, World Summits and Commerce added a voice to the demand for action and consideration of other issues such as theenvironment, business and heritage.

In medieval England we see the first attempts to legislate for fire safety through simplistic rules developed due to problems at that time. In the middle ages houses were usually built of timber frames filled in with wattle and daub. Roofs were thatched and chimney construction basic, and within the congested walled towns houses were built in narrow streets with overhanging upper storeys. These factors combined with the central hearths and straw floor coverings enabled rapid fire spread and devastating conflagrations. William the Conqueror required that all fires be extinguished at night. The popular method of achieving this was to use a metal cover which excluded the air. This cover was called a Couvert Feu which in use became Curfew.

In 1189 the first recorded attempts to legislate for fire safety were by the mayor of London who stated that all houses in the city were to be built of stone. Thatched roofs were not permitted and minimum dimensions were specified for party walls

The common historical reference point for fire safety rules is the Great fire of London which occurred in the early hours of 2nd September 1666 and burned for 4 days. Five-sixths of the city was destroyed including 1300 houses and many major monuments. Although loss of life was minimal London acquired its first complete code of Building Regulations and means for its implementation.

These are just the first historic dates in the evolution of fire safety legislation over time. There are many more famous dates where new legislation has being introduced however for this dissertation I want to focus on a few in more detail..

1. 2 Aim and Objectives


To identify case studies that have impacted on the fire regulations and to investigate what effect research has had on the fire regulations.

Identify case studies that impinged on the fire regulations
Investigate if and how research has improved the fire regulations over time
And therefore ascertain if future research should be better focused
Identify possible weaknesses in the fire regulations at present

In this Dissertation I have taken the opportunity to review the history and evolution of Northern Ireland’s built environment fire safety legislation in order to achieve my aim and objectives.

The identification of the most relevant pieces of fire safety legislation was carried out through a literature review on the subject and through discussions and structured interviews with key personnel involved in its use.

2. 0 Literature Review

The subsequent literature review is concerned with providing knowledge on the different fire legislation that is currently in use.

2. 1 Fire Legislation in Northern Ireland

The development of fire safety legislation particular to Northern Ireland is largely based on and is equivalent to legislation which has evolved for England and Wales either at the same time or frequently with a time delay of 3-5 years. Consequently the evolvement of fire safety legislation in Northern Ireland can be categorised as being reactive and overlapping.

In general terms new legislation will be proposed through one of the following mechanisms: –

By public pressure
Government’s direction
European pressure

Fire safety legislation in Northern Ireland has two main strands, one seeks to ensure that buildings are designed and constructed in a way which will contribute to a reasonable degree of fire safety the other is concerned with the continuing control and management of the buildings while occupied. This consolidation of legislation into two strands developed following recommendations from Sir Ronald Holyroyd in 1970. The major pieces of legislation that are currently in force are as follows: –

Design and Construction

The Building Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2000 (Under the Building Regulations (Northern Ireland) Order 1979)
The Building (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006.
The Building (Amendment No. 2) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006.
The Building (Amendment No. 1) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2010.
The Building (Amendment No. 2) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2010.

Buildings in Use

The Fire and Rescue Services (Northern Ireland) Order 2006.
The Fire Safety Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2010.

This legislation forms the backbone of the fire safety requirements and implications placed on industry and essentially cover all use classes. Up until the 15th of November 2010 there was over 70 different pieces of legislation that was used for non-domestic buildings in use. The new legislation stated above replaced and simplified the old legislation into one document. The old legislation required buildings to obtain fire certificates and not all buildings were required to do this but the new legislation requires all non-domestic buildings to comply with fire safety duties such as carrying out a risk assessment.

2. 2 Existing Authorities for Application and Enforcement of Legislation

2. 2. 1 Building Control Service

In Northern Ireland District Councils have a statutory duty to enforce Building Regulations and they do this through their Building Control Services. At present in Northern Ireland there are 26 District Council areas each with its own Building Control Service. The power for District Councils to enforce the Building Regulations comes from Article 10 of the Building Regulations (NI) Order 1979. All district Councils carry this out through authorised officers of their Building Control Service.

The power to make new Building Regulations or amend existing regulations also comes from the Building Regulations (NI) Order 1979. The current local Government Department given the power by this order is the Department ofFinanceand Personnel who will propose changes to all aspects of the regulations including fire safety after consultation with the Northern Ireland Building Regulations Advisory Committee and in line with powers conferred by the Order.

The regulations are now expressed in functional terms such as an ‘ adequate means of escape, which can be safely and effectively used at all material times’. This allows the designer flexibility in building form, which prior to 1994 would have been difficult to justify under the more rigid fire safety regime in place for the design and construction of new buildings. The designer now has the choice of following a specific fire safety code of practice such as technical booklet E or the BS9999 series to achieve a reasonable degree of fire safety. This is known as the ‘ deemed to satisfy approach’ which by following the specific recommendations of the various codes in full a designer is deemed to have satisfied the functional fire safety provisions within the Building Regulations. In complex buildings or where a designer finds it difficult to comply with the provisions as set out in these codes there is the opportunity to follow an ‘ alternative approach’ whereby compliance with the functional regulations can be demonstrated by an alternative means, for example through fire safety engineering.

The current provisions relating to fire safety in buildings as contained in Part E of the regulations can be seen in Appendix A

In terms of the fire safety aspects of the Building Regulations a Fire Safety Panel has been set up to ensure consistency of approach in terms of interpretation and application throughout Northern Ireland. This fire safety panel consists of 8 members from Building Control Services throughout Northern Ireland to discuss all aspects of fire safety relevant to Building Control.

2. 2. 2 Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service

Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) is the statutory fire and rescue service for Northern Ireland. They are overseen by the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service Board (NIFRS Board). It is classed as a Non-Departmental Public Body with its funds allocated by the Department ofHealth, Social Services and Public Safety.

The NIFRS Board was established on the 1st of July 2006 under the Fire and Rescue Services (Northern Ireland) Order 2006. It replaced the Fire Authority for Northern Ireland (FANI). The FANI was formed in October 1973 when, as the result of the reorganization of Local Government in Northern Ireland, the functions of the Belfast Corporation Fire Brigade and the Northern Ireland Fire Authority were combined. It was established by the Fire Services (Northern Ireland) Order 1973, and this piece of legislation was consolidated and expanded by the Fire Services (Northern Ireland) Order1984. It was also in July 2006 that the Northern Ireland Fire Brigade (NIFB) changed to the NIFRS.

The NIFRS is the main body responsible for enforcing the new Fire Safety Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2010 under The Fire and Rescue Services (Northern Ireland) Order 2006. The NIFRS serves the entire population of Northern Ireland for the enforcement of the above legislation and this is carried out by the 4 area headquarters situated at various locations in the North, South, East and West of the province. Changes to this legislation are made by the relevant local government department who at present are the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety. This department are advised on changes to legislation by the safety committee of the NIFRS.

3. 0 Methodology

The aim of my dissertation is as already stated is to identify case studies that impinged on the regulations and to investigate what effect research has had on the regulations. This will involve determining how the fire legislation has evolved over time and the factors that have influenced this. Through this I hope to find the answer to my title. Which has the most influence on the current evolvement of legislation; Research or fire tragedyThe methodology for this critical appraisal will involve the following research techniques:-

Literature searches
Identifying Case Studies
Structured Interviews of key personnel

Following the analysis of current situation of fire legislation an attempt will be made to identify the shortcomings of the present.

3. 1 Literature Searches

In order to undertake this dissertation it was necessary to carry out literature searches to get sufficient background information into fire safety. It was essential to determine the different fire safety legislation that is in place today and where it evolved from. It was also important to look at existing systems for application and enforcement of legislation in Northern Ireland. A full literature Review (see 2. 0) on the subject was carried out utilizing a variety of sources detailed given in the bibliography.

3. 2 Case Studies

As already mentioned the basis of my dissertation was to identify case studies that changed the fire regulations so therefore it was crucial to look through the history of the fire legislation. It was necessary to identify the different pieces of legislation that have being introduced between the period of the first legislation being introduced until present and to determine the reasons new legislation came into place. For the scope of this dissertation it is not possible to examine every fire that occurred throughout the centuries. Therefore I am going to choose a few of the most recent fires that changed the fire legislation and focus on what caused the fire, how many people were killed and the legislation that came into place as a result of that tragedy.

3. 2. 1 Summerland Leisure Centre, Isle of Man, 1973

Figure 1 External view of the Summerland leisure complex (Rasbash, 2003 pg. 36)

Figure 1 shows Summerland leisure centre before the fire destroyed the building in 1973. The fire was started by children at 7. 30pm in a small kiosk adjacent to the centre’s mini-golf course at point X (See Figure 2). The exterior wall beside where the kiosk was on fire was clad in Galbestos. This was a bitumen coated steel material that had passed a standard fire test but after this fire the material was found to have a limited fire-resistance. There was a cavity of 0. 3m wide and 12m long between the steel outer layer of the exterior wall and the inner wall which was made of Decalin ‘… fibreboard (class 4, which is the lowest grading in the BS 476, Part 7 Spread of flame test).’( Rasbash, 2003 pg. 36). The fire spread to the fibreboard inside the cavity which caused an explosion which in turn ignited the Oroglas, highly flammable acrylic sheeting which was covering the roof and most of the wall shown in figure 1 and 3. The fire spread across the length of the leisure centre in just under 2 mins. The Oroglas melted so burning melted material fell causing more fires to start and also injured those trying to escape. It is quite obvious from the materials chosen for this building that the designer either had no consideration or knowledge of the flammability properties these materials contained.

Figure 2 Main Solarium level, Summerland (Rasbash, 2003 pg. 37)

An interesting point in this case is that the fire services were not called for nearly thirty minutes and the call was made from a ship at sea who could see the fire. There were some 3000 people present in the building at the time of the fire. Therefore when signs of the fire were spotted this caused people to panic and rush to the exits.

In total fifty people were killed in this fire. Their bodies were found in different parts of the building. Some were found on staircase 1 shown in figure 2. This was an open staircase that people were using to escape from the upper floors and was fully exposed to the burning flames. Stairway 2 was a protected stairway and was actually supposed to be used in a situation like this. However more bodies were found here as a permanent opening was made between one of the floors so the stairway could be used as a service stairway. Another factor that caused some of the deaths was the fact that some of the exit doors were locked which lead to people getting crushed. The building after the fire was extinguished can be seen in figure 4.

The death toll in this fire brought about a public inquiry. The inquiry lasted from September 1973 to February 1974. The delay in evacuation and the flammable building materials were condemned and changes to the building regulations to improve fire safety were introduced.

Figure 3 Summerland roof in flames. ([Summerland] n. d. [image online] Available at [Accessed 18 April 2011])

Figure 4 Summerland Building after fire was put out. ([Summerland] n. d. [image online] Available at [Accessed 18 April 2011])

3. 3. 2 The Stardust Dance Club, Dublin, 1981

The Stardust fire which killed 48 people and seriously injured 128 occurred in the early hours of the 14th February 1981. It was first thought that the fire started in a balcony inside the building. The initial inquiry into the fire stated that the fire was arson. However in July 2008 an independent examination of the evidence rejected the initial findings. They could find no evidence as to where or how the fire started but they did put forward their findings to say the fire could have started in the lamp room due to an electrical fault which was beside the store room in the roof space (see figure 5). The only evidence the committee had to support this was that there had previously being electrical faults in the lamp room. The contents of the store beside the lamp contained extremely flammable materials which only would have helped spread the fire.

Figure 5

The fire was first spotted in a balcony inside the building. At this point staff evacuated users of the balcony but the other patrons of the building were not informed of the fire nor was an alarm sounded. The fire spread to the west alcove (see figure 5). This area at the time of the fire was empty and partially cut of from the dance hall by a roller blind. The west alcove as can be seen from figure 6 had raised seating. The seating and backrests in this area were covered with thick PVC polyurethane foam. The back wall which the last row of seating was resting against, was covered with carpet tiles which had a class 3 or 4 performance in the standard spread of flame test. The ceiling was also covered with insulating tiles.

Figure 6 Stardust club interior (section) showing west alcove (Rasbash, 2003 pg. 39)

At some point the roller blind was opened and at this time the fire rapidly took hold. The carpet tiles quickly became involved and within seconds all the seats in the alcove caught fire. The dance area quickly became engulfed in smoke and flames. The lighting failed which caused mass panic. Immediately people rushed for the exits only to find some of the exits were locked or obstructed in some way. This caused many people to get trampled. Some of the patrons also mistook the male toilets for an exit and once there found steel bars covering the windows. Experiments during the initial investigation showed that the seats were exposed to heat well in excess of that which would require spontaneous ignition.

Figure 7

Figure 8

A lot more people could have being killed in this fire if the part of the ceiling hadn’t collapsed. This collapse allowed for some venting of the smoke and fire. However if some basic rules such as provision of fire extinguishers and fire exits being kept clear had being followed a lot more people could have being saved. In the aftermath of the fire comparisons were made with the Summerland disaster. A number of recommendations were made to improve fire safety. (This can be seen in more detail at http://www. lenus. ie/hse/bitstream/10147/45478/1/7964. pdf)

3. 2. 3 Henderson’s Department Store, Liverpool, 1960

The Henderson Department Store fire was one of the worst in Liverpool’s history. The fire ripped through the store and killed eleven people. One person fell to their death and the other ten were found inside the store. Many different things contributed to the loss of life in this fire. A fire drill was never practised, there was no fire alarm and the fire brigade were not called straight away. A factor that caused the spread of fire was that the doors had all being jammed open as it was a warm day. The materials the building was constructed from also played a part.

Figure 9 Henderson’s Store on Fire ([Henderson’s] n. d. [image online] Available at [Accessed 19 April 2011]

There some 400 people in the store on the day of the fire. The general manager of the store was the first to spot the fire on the third floor. He called the reception to tell them to phone the fire brigade but for some reason the phone call was not made for another five minutes. The staff tried to extinguish the fire with no success. By the time the fire brigade reached the store the upper parts of the building had completely taken hold of by the fire with smoke and flames evident. When the fire brigade arrived at the scene there were people standing on the ledges of the building. One person fell to their death and the other six were rescued. Shortly after the fire brigade arrived they had to retreat from the building as the fire was too dangerous. For many hours after the fire began the fire brigade tried to get the fire under control. Once the fire had being put out ten bodies were found inside the store.

Figure 10 Inside Henderson’s Store after fire ([Henderson’s] n. d. [image online] Available at [Accessed on 19 April 2011])

The fire is thought to have started from an electrical fault but as the building was completely destroyed there was no evidence to back this up. As a result of this fire new laws were brought in to make conditions safer in shops and offices. This new legislation was brought in 1963 and was called the Office, shops and Railway Premises Act 1963.

3. 2. 4 Woolworths, Manchester, 1979

Similar to the Henderson’s fire; the Woolworths fire was Manchester’s worst fire disaster. It occurred in the month of May 1979. This fire led to major shake ups in the UK fire legislation which in turn had a big impact in the fire legislation for Northern Ireland. Ten people were killed in this fire due to smoke inhalation.

The fire started near a wardrobe beside the furniture display area. There was maybe over 70 people on the floor where the fire started. As can be seen from figure 11 all the stairwells were well positioned for means of escape. What also can be seen from figure 1 is that all the bodies were found very close to the exit stairwell.

Figure 11 Floor layout of floor that was on fire in Woolworths ([Woolworths floor plan] n. d. [image online] Available at [Accessed on 19 April 2011])

The floor manager first spotted the fire but at no time was a call made from the store to the fire brigade. The floor manager tried to fight the fire himself. At the time of the fire the store had no fire certificate which was required under the fire legislation however the store was in the process of obtaining one. There were no sprinklers in the store either but this was not a requirement under the legislation.

Figure 12 Woolworths store on fire ([ Woolworths] n. d. [image online] Available at [Accessed on 19 April 2011])

Many factors were responsible for the loss of life in this fire. First of all the staff did not raise the alarm and the fire training was poor and needed improvement. A major contribution to the loss of life was the inhalation of polyurethane fire gases. These came of the polyurethane foam upholstered furniture which after the fire was found to burn very easily. From the experiments that were carried out after the fire it was found that sprinklers could have helped those killed reach the exit stairwell and to safety.

Figure 13 Woolworths during fire being distinguished ([ Woolworths] n. d. [image online] Available at [Accessed on 19 April 2011])

Although this fire was a tragedy as already mentioned it brought round changes to the fire legislation. It led to the requirements that owners of stores have aresponsibilityto train their staff in what to do in the event of a fire. It also meant that large retail stores had to have sprinklers installed. The major change came in the form the type of fillings that were allowed to be used in upholstery furniture. All of these came about as a result of the Woolworths fire and therefore has contributed to preventing similar tragedies and saving a lot of lives.

Summerland, Stardust, Henderson’s and Woolworths are just a few of fires throughout the centuries that have impacted the fire legislation. There are many more fires that have had some sort of impact. As already mentioned I wanted to identify case studies that impacted the fire legislation but for the scope of this dissertation I was only able to go into a select few in more detail as can be seen in 3. 2. However I would like to quickly mention a few other high profile cases.

A major fire occurred in 1887 where 186 people died. This was the Theatre Royal in Exeter which probably assisted in the incorporation of provisions for means of escape in places of public resort within the Public Health Acts Amendment Act 1890. The Eastwood Mills fire in Keighley in 1956 where 8 people died led to introduction of “ The Fire Precautions At 1971”. This fire also led to the fire brigade being made responsible for the means of escape. “ The Fire Precautions Act 1971” was introduced after the fire at The Rose and Crown Hotel in Saffron Waldon. This fire occurred in 1969 and killed 11 people. A more local fire I would like to mention occurred at Maysfield Leisure Centre in Belfast in 1984. 6 people died and in 1988 amendments were made to the Fire Services Order (N. I.). This ensured that gym mats were enclosed in fire resistant doors with strips and seals on the doors. The last fire I want to include occurred at Bradford Football Stadium in 1985. 56 people were killed at the stadium that day but not all were killed by the actual fire some suffered from crushing. This led to the introduction of “ Fire Safety and Safety of places of sports Act” in 1987.

3. 3 Structured Interviews

In an attempt to achieve a number of my objectives it was important tointerviewkey personnel involved in the enforcement and implementation of fire legislation in Northern Ireland. The key personnel identified were as follows:-

1)Building Control – Damian Mc Murray (Group Building Control Officer for Londonderry)

2)Building Control – Brian Ritchie (Operations Manager for Building Control Lisburn Headquarters)

3)Building Control – Donal Rogan (Building Control Manager for Belfast Headquarters)

4)Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service – Victor Spence (Group Commander for personnel and training south area command)

5)Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service – Mark Deeney (District Commander Londonderry District)

6)Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service – Bill Wildson (District Commander Coleraine)

The structured interviews were developed for the purpose of gathering information in relation to Northern Ireland’s built environment fire safety legislation see Appendix A.

These initial interviews were used to gain an understanding and insight into the following: –

Current fire safety legislation and responsibility for enforcement. (Primary legislation and subsequent Regulations or Statutory Rules).
What effect research had on fire legislation and to determine the future of research.
Current procedures for liaison between statutory bodies.
How fire safety legislation for Northern Ireland evolves and is implemented
Views on the future of Fire Safety Legislation in Northern Ireland.
Current problems, difficulties and weaknesses in established fire safety legislation in Northern Ireland

The interviews were carried out in person with each of the individuals involved, following a briefing on the background to the dissertation. Full details of these interviews including, discussions, answers and information gleaned is contained in Appendix A. This information was utilized to establish all the current fire safety legislation and fire safety provisions applicable to buildings in Northern Ireland, the regulatory bodies involved, current consultation procedures and their professional opinion on the current situation of research.

4. 0 Discussion

Although the world has changed a great deal from the fire of Rome the reactive nature of our fire safety rules now termed legislation and regulations has not, with current legislation continuing to develop in a piecemeal fashion as it did over the many preceding centuries.

The information attained from the literature review gave me a good basis to identify the case studies needed for this dissertation. The literature review gave me an in depth knowledge of the different fires that occurred over time and their significance to the fire legislation. From this I was able to choose four key case studies that would hopefully back up the aim of my dissertation whichI believethey have.

Starting of with the Summerland disaster the delay in evacuation and the flammable building materials used were condemned. Because of this tragedy changes were made to the building regulations to improve fire safety. The same can nearly be said for the Stardust fire in Dublin in terms of the materials used. They too were extremely flammable contributing to the loss of life. But other factors contributed to this fire as well see 3. 2. 2. This tragedy also led to improvements in fire safety.

The other two case studies I researched in more depth were two shopping stores; Henderson’s in Liverpool and Woolworths in Manchester. As in the first two case studies after these fires took place changes to the legislation were introduced. Between these two fires sprinklers in large retail stores became a requirement. There were controls put on the type of foam to be used in furniture and they also led to owners having a requirement to train their staff in the event of a fire occurring. As can be seen from these case studies and the other fires I briefly mentioned there seems to be a common theme of fire legislation being introduced after a loss of life in fire.

The structured interviews undertaken for this dissertation helped me establish what impact research have on the fire legislation. From talking with key personnel within building control and the NIFRS I have found that the general feeling is that research probably doesn’t have enough of an effect. However this was not a negative point its just reality there is only so much research bodies can do with limited funds. The work they do carry out at the minute is invaluable and naturally if more funds were available more could be done. But even if that was the case I found out that the majority of the personnel I interviewed believe that it is always easy to see the faults after a major incident has occurred. Sometimes it will take a loss of life for people to sit up and question what went wrong and then make steps to rectify these faults within the fire legislation.

A point was made in the first interview that I then proceeded to ask as one of my questions in the following interviews. Sometimes people react too quickly after loss of life in a fire has being experienced. This led to the fire legislation in the past being too stringent with strict constructional specifications. Sometimes it is better to sit back let a little time pass and then investigate should changes be made in a more rational manner. At present the fire legislation is less strict. Within building control designers can refer to part E of the building regulations or to BS: 9999 to provide the minimum requirement for fire safety to new buildings. Rigid controls are being replaced by a more flexible system which allows other solutions to be considered. Fire engineering is being used more to provide software that helps in fire safety.

As already mentioned the general opinion from the interviews was that research into fire safety at the minute maybe isn’t changing the main fire legislation. However research bodies are doing as much as they can with the funds they are getting. Even though research has not impacted the legislation it does have an impact in fire safety. Research bodies carry out valuable experiments on new products that come out and state that they have fire resistance materials. Any product that states this has to provide a certificate from a recognised research body shown the fire resistance capabilities. The general consensus form the interviews was that if research bodies had more funding in the future maybe changes to fire legislation would come from here instead of having to wait for a fire tragedy to happen and loss of life to be experienced. However this seems very unlikely.

Both the literature review and the structured interviews helped with the final objective of my dissertation; Identify possible weaknesses in the fire regulations at present. In relation to the construction of new buildings, the change of use or alteration to existing buildings the legal requirements in terms of fire safety appears simple. A designer or building owner must look to the Building Regulations section E or BS: 9999 to establish requirements in terms of fire safety. This is the first strand of fire safety legislation discussed earlier, which seeks to ensure that buildings are constructed in a way which resists the spread of fire and allows the occupants to escape if fire should break out. The only weakness that got pointed out to me in the interviews was that any new legislation brought under building control only applies to new build and some areas new builds only count for a small proportion of the buildings in that area. However it would be very hard to bring out legislation that applies to existing buildings. For example if all existing buildings were to have sprinklers installed it could cost millions and it might not even save any lives. As I mentioned there are two main parts of legislation for building control to follow however there are also many different pieces that are referenced within these documents and have to be referred to as well. One of the things mentioned to me in the interviews would be good if all these documents could be put into one similar to what the NIFRS have now but he said this probably would never happen.

The second strand of legislation deals with buildings already in use. As already mentioned new legislation was introduced in November 2010. But before this was introduced there were a lot of weaknesses in the legislation that was in place beforehand. Although my aim is to see if there are any weaknesses in fire legislation at the minute I feel it is necessary to identify weaknesses that were present up until a short time age. Mainly a lot of the legislation overlapped for e. g. if there was a building with a number of different functions all the relevant legislation would have to be applied making it very complicated and difficult to understand. However the new legislation has replaced these with two new simple pieces of legislation.

Weaknesses were also present in enforcement procedures. The timescale for cases to be heard in court were too long and the penalties did not match the crime. Therefore the penalties did not provide a deterrent to operators of premises. Again the new legislation changed this withfailureto comply with the new legislation could result in imprisonment which is a much harsher punishment than before. Also if death occurred as a result of a fire the persons responsible for that building could be charged with corporate manslaughter. The old legislation required buildings to have a fire certificate but the new legislation requires the employer in the workplace or anybody who has any degree of control over a premise to undertake a risk assessment. This means the responsibility for fire safety is placed with the owners and not the fire brigade. This is good as owners will have more awareness of what is needed to keep a building safe from fire as before with the legislation being so complicated alot of owners did not understand the legislation and had no legal responsibility to ensure the building was safe from fire. The new legislation applies to all non-domestic buildings in use, whereas before hand each piece of legislation applied to a certain type of building and not all buildings were covered.

As this new legislation has only recently being introduced it is hard to determine if there are any weaknesses there. The general feeling from the interviews was that the new legislation looks to be safe at the minute but only time will tell if that is the case.


Having undertook this dissertation through a literature review, identifying case studies and carrying out interviews I believe it is obvious that fire safety legislation has evolved and developed in a piecemeal fashion – primarily as a reactive process to particular fire incidents and tragedies. However although in the early days legislation came from fire tragedies nowadays changes are more likely to come from the industry such as business wanting their product to be included in the legislation. In the past we didn’t have people trying to make a living out of fire safety. Changes can also come about from environmental impacts. Some products cannot be used anymore because they harm the environment and as already mentioned European directives have a say as well.

So I think it would be correct to say that the answer to my title “ Fire Regulations: A reaction to death or an action from research” is a bit of both and a variety of other factors. From the case studies it is also evident that research did have a positive influence. Although these influences were after the fires occurred through the experiments carried out key changes were made and harmful products banned from being used. At present research bodies are still carrying these important experiments and tests on new products being introduced to the industry.

In general the fire legislation at the current state seems to be very good. The legislation is detailed enough to ensure the safety of lives in buildings but also enables designers more freedom in their design than was allowed in the past. Hopefully in the future any new legislation or changes to existing legislation is brought around through research or the other sources mentioned and not a direct result of death in fire.


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20 DEPARTMENT OF FINANCE. The Building Regulations (Northern Ireland) Order 1979. Statutory Instruments of Northern Ireland 1979 No. 1709 (N. I. 16), London 1979.

21 DEPARTMENT FOR SOCIAL DEVELPOMENT. The Housing (Northern Ireland) Order 2003. Part 4 ‘ Houses in Multiple Occupation’. Statutory Instruments of Northern Ireland 2003 No. 412 (N. I. 2), London 1984.

22 DEPARTMENT OF THE ENVIRONMENT. Housing (Management of houses in Multiple Occupation) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1993. Statutory Rules of Northern Ireland 1993 No. 38, London 1993.

23 Office and Shop Premises Act (NI) 1966

24 DEPARTMENT OF MANPOWER SERVICES. Health and Safety at Work (Northern Ireland) Order 1978. Statutory Instruments of Northern Ireland 1978 No. 1039 (N. I. 9), London 1978.


26 BILL HIRST. Fire Legislation – Is It an Unnecessary Burden?, Facilities, Vol. 12 No. 8, 1994, pp 10-14, MCB University Press.

27 RICS. Rethinking Control of Buildings, RICS Building Control Forum Survey and Review Document, P11 Project Number IBC 9903

28 DEPARTMENT OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT. Health and Safety. Enforcing Authority Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1997. Statutory Rules of Northern Ireland 1997 No. 229, London 1997.

29 DEPARTMENT OF THE ENVIRONMENT. The Fire Services (Hotels and Boarding Houses) Order (Northern Ireland) 1985. Statutory Rules of Northern Ireland 1985 No. 183, London 1985.

30 DEPARTMENT OF THE ENVIRONMENT. The Fire Services (Hotels and Boarding Houses) (Amendment) Order (Northern Ireland) 1986. Statutory Rules of Northern Ireland 1986 No. 28, London 1986.

31 DEPARTMENT OF THE ENVIRONMENT. The Fire Services (Leisure Premises) Order (Northern Ireland) 1985. Statutory Rules of Northern Ireland 1985 No. 137, London 1985.

32 DEPARTMENT OF THE ENVIRONMENT. The Cinemas (NI) Order 1991. Statutory Instruments of Northern Ireland 1991 No. 1462 (N. I. 12), London 1991.

33 DEPARTMENT OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT. Co-ordination and Effectiveness of Fire Safety in Northern Ireland – Report 1985

34 KNIGHT. Knights Guide to Fire Safety Legislation, Charles Knight Publishing Croydon

35 ANDREW ARDEN AND CHRALES CROSS. The Housing and Building Control Act 1984. Sweet and Maxwell, London 1984

36 PW JACKSON. Local Government. Butterworths, London 1972

37 JAMES A. HOLLAND AND JULIAN S WEBB. Learning Legal Rules 4th Edition. Blackstone Press, London 2002

38 TREVOR MARTIN. Building Control in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. Building Standards Journal pp19-21 March-April 2001

39 HL MALHOTRA. Fire Safety in Buildings, BRE Report 987. December 1986

40 CIBSE GUIDE. Fire Engineering 2nd Edition. CIOB Services Engineering Section 2 ‘ Legislation Standards and Strategy

Web Sites

www. hseni. gov. uk

www. hse. gov. uk

www. odpm. gov. uk

www. parliament. gov. uk

www. firesafe. org. uk

www. fire. org. uk

www. info4localgov. com

www. nifb. org. uk

Electronic Information Services

Fire Worldwide

Legislation Direct

Statutory instruments

UK Statutory instruments

Barbour Index Building Control and NI

Butterworths legal updater

Full Text Electronic Journals

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Faculty Subject Guides

Engineering and Built Environment – Internet Subject Guides – ‘ Fire Safety

1 Popplewell, O., Committee of Inquiry into Crowd Safety at Sports Grounds: Final Report, HMSO, London, 1986.

2 Fennell, D., Investigation into the King’s Cross Underground Station Fire, HMSO, London, 1988.

3 Butler, C. P., ‘ Notes on the charring rates in wood’, Fire Research Note 896, 1971.

4 Report of the Tribunal of Inquiry on the Fire at the Stardust, Artane, Dublin, Stationary Office, Dublin, 1982.

5 Woo, K. H., Final Report of the Inquiry into the Garley Building Fire on 20th November 1996, Hong Kong: Government Printer, 1997

6 Morris, W. A., ‘ Stardust Disco Investigation – some observations on the full-scale fire tests’, Fire Safety Journal 7, 255-65, 1984.

7 Video: ‘ Anatomy of a Fire’, Building Research Establishment, Garston, Watford, 1982.

8 Karlsson, B, ‘ A mathematical model for calculating heat release rate in the room corner test’, Fire Safety Journal 20, 93-113, 1993

9 Grant, G. B. and Drysdale D. D., ‘ Numerical modelling of early fire spread in warehouse fires’, Fire Safety Journal 24, 247-278, 1995.

10 Moodie, K., ‘ The King’s Cross Fire: Damage assessment and overview of the technical investigation’, Fire Safety Journal 18, 13-33, 1992.

11 Roberts, A. F., ‘ The King’s Cross Fire: a correlation of eyewitness accounts and results of the scientific investigation’, Fire Safety Journal 18, 105-121, 1992.

12 Simcox, S., Wilkes, N. S., and Jones, I. P., ‘ Computer simulation of the flows of hot gases from the fire at the King’s Cross Underground Station’, Fire Safety Journal 18, 49-73, 1992.

13 Drysdale, D. D., Macmillan, A. J. R., and Shilitto, D., ‘ The King’s Cross Fire: experimental verification of the ‘ trench effect’, Fire Safety Journal 18, 75-82, 1992.

14 Moodie, K., and Jagger, S. F., ‘ The King’s Cross Fire: results and analysis from the scale model tests’, Fire Safety Journal 18, 83-103, 1992.

15 Woodburn, P., and Drysdale, D. D., ‘ Fire in Inclined Trenches: the dependence of the critical angle on the trench and burner geometry’, Fire Safety Journal 31, 143-164, 1998.

16 Woodburn, P., and Drysdale, D. D., ‘ Fire in Inclined Trenches: time-varying features of the attached plume’, Fire Safety Journal 31, 165-1172, 1998.

17 Janssen, J. J. A., Building with Bamboo: a Handbook, pp. 21 IntermediateTechnologyPublications, London, 1988.

18 Babrauskas, V., and Williamson, R. B., ‘ Post flashover compartment fires: basis of a theoretical model’, Fire and Materials 2, 39-53, 1978.

19 Drysdale, D. D., Introduction to Fire Dynamics, Second Edition, JohnWiley and Sons, Chichester, 1998.

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