Essex County Fire and Rescue Service

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Primary Authority Scheme

Primary Authority Scheme

Essex County Fire and Rescue Service is committed to helping all businesses in the County by providing advice and information on fire safety issues and legislation.

In 2014 Fire Services were introduced into the Office for Product Safety and Standards ‘Primary Authority’ scheme. The scheme demonstrates a legally recognised partnership between a business and a primary authority. This can be either set up as a co – ordinated or direct partnership. This scheme allows businesses that operate across more than one authority area to standardise their procedures in a manner that will be accepted across all their business premises.

To this end, Essex County Fire & Rescue Service work with our current partners that operate in the Care, Hotel & Leisure, Housing and Retail areas providing information, advice & support to them that is used nationally and locally.

So what are the benefits….

Reducing the costs of compliance

  • Develop an open and honest relationship with your business, where you can share information about your compliance with legal requirements and work together to resolve issues.
  • Provide you with tailored 'Primary Authority Advice' which your business an rely on with confidence.
  • Act as a single point of contact with other fire authorities, reducing the irritation of multiple inspections of your business premises.

Improving confidence

Your Primary Authority Officer will work with your business to understand your main risks and provide constructive challenges on the management of these risks, to improve your businesses compliance.

  • Financial risks associated with a compliance failure, including the cost of legal fees and court fines.
  • Business continuity risk - any interruption to normal business activity, whether this is related to an investigation by a regulator, or to the need to withdraw or suspend a product or service.
  • Reputational risk - any damage to your brand and reputation as a result of significant failure to meet legal requirements.

Reducing the costs of getting it wrong

We receive feedback from other fire authorities about a business in relation to inspections that have been carried out.

This detailed understanding of your business means that, where an issue arises which may indicate a failure to meet legal requirements, the primary authority can:

Work with your business to quickly assess the issue and agree whether remedial action is needed.

Make recommendations to other fire authorities on how to respond proportionately to any compliance failure.

The primary authority is also able to direct against enforcement action by another local authority, where your business has acted on Primary Authority Advice, and the proposed action is inconsistent with their advice.

What is Primary Authority Advice?

Often referred to as 'assured advice' it can provide protection for a business and reduce a business's exposure to the costs of unfair or inconsistent regulatory action.

Why should I follow it?

Provided the business follows the advice, it does not need to worry about responding to conflicting advice or even facing enforcement action from another local authority, that has a different interpretation of the legal requirements.

What can Primary Authority advice cover?

Businesses have different needs so it is important that your business works with its primary authority, to understand and prioritise the regulatory risks faced by the business.

This will help you to understand where primary authority advice can add value.

It can be helpful to think of primary authority advice as falling into two broad areas:

Advice on interpretation and applicability of legislation

Advice on compliance systems

How is advice provided?

A business is likely to have discussions with it's primary authority around compliance issues, some of which will lead to advice being provided, and some of which will not.

This should not present any difficulties, if both partners are clear as to when primary authority advice is being provided, and what that advice is.

There is no statutory obligation within the scheme for advice to be in writing however, it is sensible to make sure that any advice given is always recorded and is accessible by both partners.

How long will primary authority advice remain valid?

Primary authorities are required under the scheme to review their advice at appropriate intervals and when circumstances change.

Who do Essex County Fire and Rescue Service currently partner with….

The Salvation Army (Care)

Care UK (Care)

East of England Co-Op (Retail)

The Radisson Group (Hotels & Leisure)

British Frozen Food Federation (Trade Association)

Q Hotels (Hotels & Leisure)

Leonard Cheshire Disabilities (Care)

Dimensions UK (Care)

Apetito (Food Production)

Greggs (Retail)

CHP (Housing)

Anglian Water Services (Utilities)

Further information can be obtained from the Service Primary Authority Manager.

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