Fire Safety Inspection Service May Prove To Be Much More Expensive Than Predicted
The Ministry of the Interior has drawn up a draft act that establishes clarified requirements for conducting fire safety inspections. The Chamber of Commerce has submitted several proposals for amendments to the Ministry. For example, we proposed allowing owners and possessors of buildings to request from the Rescue Board extension of the term for carrying out the fire safety inspection which would be applicable in certain cases.
According to the amendments to the Fire Safety Act that enter into force on 1 March, the possessors or owners of larger industrial or production facilities (total area over 1,000 m2) and office buildings (total area over 750 m2) shall be obliged to conduct fire safety inspection every three years and present it to the Rescue Board. A fire safety inspection is checking the compliance with fire safety requirements of the territory, building and fire safety installation located therein as well as activities conducted within the building. The content of the fire safety inspection obligation is periodic reporting of the fire safety status of the respective object to the Rescue Board.
The Chamber of Commerce was against this amendment as it increases costs and administrative burden for the companies but clearly does not facilitate improvement of fire safety. In this amendment, we see the state’s wish to place some of their costs on the companies. As this amendment was passed already at the end of last year and the Ministry has now drawn up a new draft regulation, which establishes the principles of carrying out fire safety inspections in more detail, the Chamber of Commerce’s feedback focused first and foremost on topics related to that regulation.
Liability of the body conducting the fire safety inspection must be clear
According to the draft regulation, the body conducting the fire safety inspection must check if the required fire safety installations exist in the building, are in good working condition and maintained and if a plan of action in case of fire and evacuation scheme have been prepared for the building, and if a fire drill has been conducted.
However, neither the draft nor the explanatory memorandum set out what is the liability of the body conducting the fire safety inspection for the services provided. For example, if the body conducting the inspection establishes that the building meets all the fire safety requirements, but a month after the inspection there is a fire in the building, is the body conducting the fire safety inspection liable for that and to what extent. Therefore we asked the Ministry to clarify the liability of the body conducting the inspection. In the Chamber’s opinion, the service provider should be liable for the quality of the rendered service with which they provide the owner, possessor and presumably the user certain additional sense of security.
Exempting from the fire safety inspection
According to the draft, the Rescue Board may exempt an owner or possessor of a building from the obligation to conduct fire safety inspection if due to the purpose of use or any other peculiarity of a building, conducting the fire safety inspection would not be reasonable. The Rescue Board can do it only if the body conducting the fire safety inspection has sent the respective application to the Rescue Board.
The Chamber proposed the Ministry to grant the owners and possessors of buildings the right to request exemption from the inspection. Such option would be necessary in situations where the body conducting the inspection forgets or maliciously fails to inform the Rescue Board.
Furthermore, we proposed the Ministry to allow owners and possessors of buildings to request, in certain cases, extension of the deadline for conducting the fire safety inspection. This is necessary for example when the body conducting the fire safety inspection has accidentally, maliciously or due to incompetence indicated deficiencies in the fire safety inspection report and therefore a new inspection must be carried out in three years instead of six years. At the moment, the draft states that extension of the term is allowed only if the body conducting the inspection assesses that the activities in the building and the building are safe without deficiencies.
Inspection should not be conducted by a person employed by the Rescue Board
According to the amendments to the Fire Safety Act, fire safety inspections can be carried out only by people who have the certificate of competency of level 5 fire safety specialist or certificate of competency of level 6 fire safety expert. As of autumn 2020, there are 98 persons with the relevant certification, 23 of them are employed by the Rescue Board.
In the opinion of the Chamber of Commerce, employees of the Rescue Board should not provide the service of carrying out fire safety inspections. That constitutes a conflict of interests and risk of corruption that should be avoided. Therefore we have proposed to the Ministry to take measures prohibiting persons employed by the Rescue Board to provide the service of fire safety inspections.
Service may prove to be much more expensive than projected
In the opinion of the legislators, the cost of the service of fire safety inspection will be as much as the cost of self-inspection fire safety report, i.e. around 300 euros. In the opinion of the Chamber of Commerce, the price of the inspection may be many times higher.
First, one should take into account that the cost of the service is most probably higher for the companies that are located further away from central locations. The reason is that service providers are not located evenly across Estonia. Secondly, we have received feedback from industrial companies that the minimum fee for preparing the self-inspection fire safety report is approximately 300 euros, but in case of more complicated objects and in places where actual work process takes place, it may be many times higher. Furthermore, it should be taken into account that the persons conducting fire safety inspections will be requesting a fee for follow-up checks. Thus, if the person conducting the inspection discovers deficiencies, they must later check if the deficiencies have been eliminated. This service is also for a fee.
The regulation will enter into force on 1 March 2021 together with the Draft Fire Safety Act and Other Acts Amendment Act. According to the draft regulation, owners or possessors of buildings are obliged to submit the fire safety inspection report to the Rescue Board by no later than 1 January 2023 for office buildings, no later than 1 January 2024 for industrial and production facilities and no later than 1 January 2025 for garages. If an owner or possessor of a building is required to conduct fire safety inspection, they are no longer required to submit the self-inspection fire safety report to the Rescue Board.
The draft fire safety inspection regulation can be seen here HERE.