June 2012 | February 2012
The European Commission has announced its intention to revise the 1986 European recommendation on fire safety in hotels. This follows the European Parliament seminar in January on accommodation safety. The process began in mid-June.
The 1986 recommendation sets out minimum technical requirements for ensuring the fire safety of hotels and other similar establishments. The idea now is to update the text "to take into account aspects [of hotel fire safety] that are currently missing or need improving". This will be done in part by basing the new requirements on a methodology developed by Hotrec on behalf of its members: the MBS (management, building, systems) methodology.
Note that this initiative does not affect self-catering accommodation or campsites.
Should there be stronger EU rules governing the safety of tourist accommodation? This was the subject of a seminar held recently in the European Parliament and the European Commission is planning to issue a consultation paper on the safety of services - including tourist accommodation - in the EU later this year.
On the initiative of the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) and ANEC, the European consumer body that specialises in standardisation issues, the European Parliament held a seminar on accommodation safety on 31st January.
The inspiration behind the meeting was a joint initiative by ABTA and ANEC to push for EU action on the fire safety of tourist accommodation. Both organisations have been working separately on this issue for some time. Recently, they wrote jointly with a number of MEPs to the European commissioner responsible for health and consumer policy, John Dalli.
Currently, the only European legislation on fire safety of accommodation (apart from health and safety directives for the workplace) is an EU 'recommendation' which dates from 1986 and suggests various minimum criteria for hotels. As a 'recommendation', it can offer only guidance; it has no legal force. ABTA and ANEC would like to see it replaced by an enforceable regulatory instrument.
The response of HOTREC, the European hospitality body, to fire safety concerns has been to develop its MBS (management, building and systems) methodology, which is "meant to help hotels of all sizes across Europe achieving a high level of fire safety, in support of national/regional and local regulations and standards". This methodology is highly respected, including by ANEC, but it remains voluntary. ANEC, ABTA and some MEPs want legislation.
The EC has so far resisted calls for European legislation in this area, but it now appears to be changing its mind. Having proposed a new directive on product safety, it is now looking at the possibility of one on the safety of services and this could cover tourist accommodation (and presumably not just hotels). Its next step will be to publish a green paper on service safety and to hold a public consultation on this.
Outcome of the meeting
• A feeling held by many that self-regulation was not enough.
• The announcement by the EC official present that the Directorate-General for Health and Consumer Safety is to publish a green paper later this year on the safety of consumer services. Accommodation safety will be included in this consultation and the plan is to attach the MBS methodology in an annexe to the green paper.
• A working group is to be set up on the safety of tourist accommodation. This will meet in June.
• Agreement that more information is needed on health and safety incidents occurring in tourist accommodation throughout the EU.