Small firms are set to be hammered by more red tape and cost, a pressure group has claimed.
The Forum of Private Business says the Government is set to lump responsibility for fire safety in commercial premises on to the small and medium-sized businesses it represents.
National spokesman for the FPB Rex Garratt said: "Up until now, experienced fire authority officers have always advised employers on the fire precautions they need to take, and have issued fire certificates.
"But under this new law, employers will be held responsible and fire certificates will be phased out."
He said firms will expected to check through up to 11 different fire safety manuals drawn up by the Government, each one 100 pages thick, and follow the safety guidelines.
Alternatively, firms would have to go to the expense of employing fire safety consultants.
Mr Garratt said: "This is a classic example of the Government shifting public sector costs on to the private sector."
The FPB says the Fire Safety Regulatory Reform Order is due to come into effect next April - and that it means that fire safety certificates will no longer be issued by fire brigades.
Businesses would be expected to decide which manual applied to their business activity, and then download the information from the Government's website.
Firms will face penalties if subsequent inspections by fire officers discover any of the guidelines have not been fully implement, the FPB says.
The new regulations would apply to all 52 fire brigade authorities throughout England and Wales initially.
The FPB was formed in 1977 and claims to represent approximately 25,000 UKbased businesses.