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What counts as a reasonable extent? – a systems approach for understanding fire safety in Sweden

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Swedish legislation requires that any owner or user of a building maintain a reasonable level of fire protection measures to ensure the safety of all people located in the building. If a building, in the wake of a fire, in court is determined not to have had a reasonable fire protection, the blame will likewise be assigned to the building owner or user. Using the perspective of risk governance, this study aims at analysing how regulation and stakeholders interact to maintain a specific level of fire protection in hotels. The focus is on identifying problems and frictions that have emerged from the complex relationships, and differences of interests, between the different stakeholders. Based on a stakeholder analysis, 11 respondents were selected for an interview study. The main problems identified in the analysis are that there are ambiguities for the individual hotel owner to know whether her or his fire protection measures are reasonable according to the law, that the system has emerged without clear political goals, problems related to the process of local supervision, that the ambiguous situation gives rise to opportunities of other stakeholders to claim the definition of what counts as a reasonable extent, and the ethical problems associated with convicting a single individual for failure in a complex multi-actor system.
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Keywords: blame; complexity; fire safety; risk governance; stakeholders

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Fire Safety Engineering and Systems Safety,Centre for Risk Assessment and Management, Lund University, Lund, Sweden

Publication date: 2012-05-01

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