In England and Wales, whether you are an employer, owner, landlord or occupier of a business or other non-domestic premise, you are responsible for fire safety and are known as the ‘responsible person’.
Where two or more responsible persons share, or have duties in respect of, premises (whether on a temporary or a permanent basis) each person must co-operate with the other responsible person so far as is necessary to meet the responsibilities under The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 which details what you must do to comply with the law.
In Scotland, the responsibility for complying with the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 and the associated Fire Safety (Scotland) Regulations 2006 rests with the Duty Holder. In the workplace, this could be the employer, as well as any other person who may have control to an extent of any part of the premises, for example, the occupier or owner.
If the business employs five or more employees, then a fire risk assessment (FRA) must be undertaken. The significant findings of the FRA need to be documented and a record kept.
What does a Fire Risk Assessment involve?
A FRA is a method to look at a company’s premises, the activities undertaken within and outside the premises; how fire safety is managed; the potential for a fire to occur and the harm it could cause to the people in and around the area. From the FRA existing fire safety measures should be evaluated to determine if the measures are adequate, or if additional measures are required. The person who undertakes a FRA should be “competent”.
The law does not say who can undertake a FRA. However, the person must be trained, experienced and skilled to complete a 'suitable and sufficient' assessment of that building. For large or complex buildings, this may mean seeking assistance from a third party with professional expertise if there is no one within the company that meets the competency criteria above.
A fire risk assessment should include not only the makeup of the premises but also those who occupy it. Staff training is critical in preventing loss of life in a fire situation, so this must also be taken in to account in any fire risk assessment.
How often should a Fire Risk Assessment be reviewed?
Under current fire safety legislation, there is no specific time limit how frequently the FRA must be reviewed, the responsible person, must regularly review the FRA. This will identify what needs to be done to prevent fires and keep employees and others who may be affected by the company’s activities or business, safe. It is recommended as a minimum the FRA is reviewed annually to keep it up to date and in particular if there is a reason to suspect that it is no longer valid or there has been a significant change, this could include when the premises has undergone significant changes, alterations, or extensions.
The second most enforced article of the Fire safety Order involves the failure to provide a suitable and sufficient risk assessment. Therefore, the FRA needs to be as suitable and sufficient as it can be. The hazards identified by it need to be presented in a form that is not only easy to understand but can be used as a working document to ensure those hazards are eliminated or at least mitigated. There needs to be a workable action plan included with it that considers not only the physical hazards in the premises but also staff knowledge and frequency of training.
Basically, if your FRA does not meet these requirements then it is not ‘suitable and sufficient’ for use. The UK Fire and Safety Industry Associations recommend that where the responsible person lacks the requisite skill, knowledge, experience, and competence to produce a sufficient and suitable fire risk assessment then a professional Fire Risk Assessor should be appointed.
How Alcumus can help
For further information about how a proficient FRA can help you, or if you are unsure of whether your current FRA would be considered suitable and sufficient to satisfy the authorities, please contact Alcumus PSM to speak to one of our H&S consultants who can advise you further on 01484 439930 or email [email protected].
Alcumus PSM (People & Safety Management) specialises in human resources (HR) and health and safety (H&S) consulting for small and medium-sized enterprises.
Written by Gary Broadley CMIOSH TIFireE OSCHR, Senior Health & Safety Consultant