The implementation of Council Directive 89/391/EEC of 12 June 1989 required the introduction of measures to encourage improvements in the safety and health of workers at work. The Polish Labour Code in respect of this was recently amended.

Previously the obligation to provide fire protection fell on the owner, user or administrator of the premises (Fire Protection Act 24 August 1991). The obliged person could contractually assign fire protection to another entity, provided that the latter was a professional with adequate qualifications. The Fire Protection Act did not require the permanent presence of a person responsible for fire protection in the company.

New legislation

Amendment to the Polish Labour Code has introduced Article 209 1 § 1.2, placing a new obligation on employers. The new regulation states that each employer has to appoint one employee that will be responsible for fire protection in the company and this person must possess relevant qualifications. The employee concerned will be responsible for security and evacuation of people from premises of the company, preparation of the premises for a rescue operation and training of other employees on fire protection regulations. The amendment is effective as of 18 January 2009.

Effect on employers

This new legal requirement puts a duty on employers to appoint a person responsible for fire protection. This duty is binding upon every single entrepreneur even a single, self-employed person. Breach of the duty may result in a financial penalty of up to 30,000 PLN.

Depending on interpretation, it is possible that in reality the new law will not change the current situation too much. The Ministry of Labour and Social Policy issued information that “if an employer is renting premises in a building and has regulated the course of fire protection and range of responsibilities with the owner or administrator of the building in that situation the owner or administrator are fulfilling the obligation of Article 209 1 § 1.2”. The Ministry is also advising postponement of the financial fines for the next couple of months in order to give businesses an opportunity to implement the new measures.

Current comment is that it is highly irresponsible, at this time of economic crisis, to impose a duty on businesses to hire another employee, or have a current one trained, that will be responsible solely for fire protection in the company: even if that person is only required part-time. Both solutions are burdensome for Polish businesses and are not proportionate to the benefit afforded by the new legislation.