If you are reading this, then you must have some level of responsibility for the safety of your employees and your business in the event of a fire breaking out and awareness that this is your legal responsibility.
Summary of your responsibilities
In 2005 the Government launched the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order, (RRO). This document replaced 179 fire legislation documents and combined them into a single document. One of the changes that this document featured was that all companies who employ 5 people or more must have a written fire risk assessment. They are also required to appoint a “Responsible Individual.”
In 2006 the Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order (2005) came into force, requiring all businesses with five employees or more, to carry out a full fire risk assessment.
When the RRO was launched many companies advertised fire risk assessment documents on the internet, some of these documents were available free of charge and were designed so that the end-user could complete the document (and therefore pass the assessment) in a tick box format. This method may be considered acceptable if the person completing the form was sufficiently qualified. However, in many cases, it has since become apparent that the forms were being completed by a person with very little experience and most definitely could not be considered competent.
Many years later it is our opinion that there remain thousands of companies that still do not have an up to date written fire risk assessment that has been completed by a competent person, or worse still, they do not have a fire risk assessment at all.
In addition, the decision-making process followed in order to choose who to appoint as the “responsible individual has been just as frightening. In many instances, companies have not bothered, or do not realise that they must appoint this person. All too often, they have appointed a person with little, or no experience of assessing the risk of fire and ensuring measures are in place to protect people, property and processes.
Even worse, the owners, or Directors of the company, have failed to realise and inform their responsible person, that failing to carry out their duties could result in a prison sentence. Should an incident occur that causes injury, the Directors and the ‘responsible individual’ can be held liable. All too often, the role of the ‘responsible individual’ is treated with the same importance that is given to making sure the coffee jar in the canteen is full.
We firmly believe that the fire risk assessment should be conducted by an experienced professional, and preferably someone who holds a third-party accreditation, such as the qualifications issued by BAFE, or the Fire Service training college.
Despite this being a requirement of law, it is estimated that as many as a third of businesses are still not aware of their obligation and as a result could face prosecution.
This could lead to fines, closure of the premises, forced stoppage of business and even in severe cases imprisonment.
With this is mind – when was the last time you conducted a fire risk assessment and how confident are you that new issues, changes to building layouts to accommodate hybrid working, or works in adjacent properties or areas that might affect fire safety would not be flagged?
What is a fire risk assessment?
Every business owner, premises owner, landlord, director or manager must have a ‘responsible person’ – someone who is in charge of fire safety. It is this person that needs to ensure that a fire risk assessment is carried out.
The assessment itself is a detailed look at your premises with the intention of creating a detailed, personalised plan that sets out recommendations for systems and processes to be put into place within your business.
It is broken down into a number of key areas such as; fire safety administration; fire fighting facilities; identifying fire hazards; fire routine and test procedure; means of escape; review procedures; staff/people at risk; arson prevention check list, and fire warning facilities.
Who should carry out the assessment?
It is possible for your ‘responsible person’ to carry out the fire risk assessment, but they have to prove competence in fire safety and the risk assessment should be “suitable and sufficient”.
A safer, more reliable and hassle-free way forward, is to utilise the services of a professional BAFE approved fire safety company with the right level of experience and knowledge in fire safety and the law to carry out the assessment and then provide you with a full report.
The cost for making sure your business is compliant, and that your staff are protected in the event of fire, is a lot less than you might imagine – it could be as little as £150 + VAT.
So, if you haven’t had a fire risk assessment carried out, don’t delay anymore.
Enforcement officers have the right to enter your building at anytime, without warning, and ask to see your relevant documents. If you don’t have them, the punishment can be severe.
If you would like to understand your obligations or need further advice please get in touch.
Mark has spent his working career in the fire alarm industry, in which he is highly respected by his colleagues and competitors alike. Mark often provides technical support to other fire alarm companies and even alarm equipment manufacturers. He also uses his experience to train engineering personnel.