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The Role of the Responsible Individual

December 02nd, 2016

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If you are reading this article, it’s highly likely that you’ve just been asked to take on the role of the “Responsible Individual’ for your company and are wondering what the role actually involves!

Alternatively, you are already doing the role and are beginning to fully understand the implications and would like to ensure you carry it out professionally!

As you are probably beginning to realise, the role of the Responsible Individual is not one to be taken lightly. Getting it wrong could mean you being found individually accountable and facing a hefty fine or maybe even a prison sentence.

In a nutshell, the role of the Responsible Individual is to ensure the company for which it has been appointed complies with Fire safety regulations as laid out in a document known as the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

This means that it is your role to take general fire precautions that will ensure as much as is reasonably practicable, the safety of employees, and that the premises are safe from fire.

In practice, this means working with experts like a fire risk assessor, the fire brigade and fire safety equipment providers such as Tecserv to ensure fire alarms and any fire safety equipment such as fire extinguishers are maintained in accordance with the fire alarm regulations. You must also ensure and evidence that training on fire safety is provided to all staff on a regular basis and that fire evacuation procedures are documented and practiced.

Fire alarm regulation

Adhering to fire alarm regulation involves:

  • Providing all staff with training and information on fire safety instructions.
  • Providing information on emergency procedures.
  • Having a written risk assessment document which is accessible and regularly reviewed.
  • Informing staff and their representatives about identified risks.
  • Implementing and maintaining the appropriate fire alarm regulations.

For a small business, there is usually a requirement that the business owner is the individual responsible for carrying out these requirements. However, in larger businesses that have many employees or multiple sites, this may not be one individual because fire alarm regulation requirements are coordinated and implemented by several persons or teams, who collectively ensure that all persons’ present are safe.

 Setting down The Regulations

Fire safety regulations are encapsulated in the document known as the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, which replaces the previous 2001 equivalent. For the majority of commercial premises, the 2005 framework replaces all previous legislation with one set of rules. In short, it requires that appropriate individuals must take all possible steps to reduce the risk from fire and ensure that all persons can evacuate should it become necessary.


It is important to state that this document does not require a designated fire safety officer or responsible individual to have specialist training in fire prevention or fighting. It sets out set procedures that can be followed well within the remit of common sense. It is almost a certainty that in premises such as hotels, schools, universities, care homes, hospitals, heritage buildings and visitor attractions expert training is going to be needed. In other words, the document allows for a responsible individual to acquire expert advice and support as and when it is required.

Fulfilling the Obligations in the 2005 Order

The designated responsible person is required under the law to ensure that the fire risk assessment is carried out; even if the task is delegated to a third party. This is not a task to be taken on lightly. The responsible persons are legally bound to ensure that every practical step has been taken to prevent a fire starting and to ensure that everyone in the building can evacuate if a fire starts. This means employees, visitors or indeed the audience in an entertainment venue. In short, the word “everyone” means exactly that, “all persons on the premises”.

 Managing Fire Risk

The 2005 document makes clear that fire safety certificates are no longer issued and that those already displayed have no legal bearing. This means the responsible individual is required to carry out a detailed risk assessment, and any existing paperwork will provide a sound foundation from which to begin. One area for consideration in commercial premises is the number and location of fire activation points. They must be clearly visible and easy to activate should an employee discover a fire. In cases where the premises are very large or made up of several separate buildings it may be more practical to trigger alarms only in buildings or areas where the fire alarm has been set off.

Fire equipment maintenance

In most commercial settings the procedures related to the testing and maintenance of the fire alarm system in order to comply with fire alarm regulation has to be carried out by trained and certified personnel. Such a requirement will be set out in writing in the risk assessment documents. In most instances, the inspection of the fire alarm system will occur between two and four times a year.  However, this will vary depending on the nature of the business and any specific requirements.


The role of the responsible individual is to ensure that appropriate fire prevention steps are taken. In most cases, this will not be carried out independently, and the person(s) concerned will likely seek additional help and support before they take on this responsibility.

If you would like more information on fire safety training for Responsible Individual’s, please get in touch.


April 23rd, 2019

The short answer to the question ‘why maintain a commercial fire alarm system?’ is that regular maintenance helps to protect lives!