Conducting a fire risk assessment is the first step in fire safety in the workplace. A risk assessment will help you to identify potential fire risks and ensure they are suitably controlled. It will also ensure you are meeting your legal obligations.
However, many business owners are unsure of exactly who is responsible for completing a fire risk assessment. This blog explains what you need to know about who can conduct a fire risk assessment and how they should do so.
Why Your Business Needs a Fire Risk Assessment
Fires can start at any time and take just seconds to accelerate and spread. In a matter of minutes, intense smoke and heat can engulf a building, leading to the potential loss of lives while inflicting huge amounts of damage.
The impact of a fire can be devastating. Almost 60% of small to medium businesses are not able to recover from the destruction that a fire can cause, according to the London Fire Brigade.
Under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety Order) 2005 (RRO), all business owners and landlords in the UK must conduct a thorough fire risk assessment regularly. In addition to being a legal requirement, a fire risk assessment is a crucial part of fire safety in the workplace.
Failure to meet your obligations under the RRO could result in someone losing their life, the destruction of your property, and land you in court. If you own a business or a property in the UK, you need to know exactly who is responsible for completing a fire risk assessment.
Who is Responsible for Completing a Fire Risk Assessment in the Workplace?
Not just anyone can conduct a fire risk assessment. The RRO is quite clear on who is responsible for completing a fire risk assessment and who is legally responsible for all matters concerning fire safety in the workplace.
Under the RRO, a ‘Responsible Person’ has the legal duty to ensure fire safety precautions are implemented in any business premises or non-domestic premises.
A Responsible Person is defined by the RRO as:
- ‘(a) In relation to a workplace, the employer, if the workplace is to any extent under his control;
- (b) in relation to any premises not falling within paragraph (a)—
- (i) the person who has control of the premises (as occupier or otherwise) in connection with the carrying on by him of a trade, business or other undertaking (for profit or not); or
- (ii) the owner, where the person in control of the premises does not have control in connection with the carrying on by that person of a trade, business or other undertaking.’
The UK government website clarifies this further by stating that a Responsible Person can be an:
- Property owner
- Anyone with some degree of control over a premises, or part of a premises that can be accessed by others. For example, a property manager, a managing agent, or a risk assessor
It’s possible for there to be more than one Responsible Person in a non-domestic building or workplace. Under the RRO, the Responsible Person has various duties that they must either perform themselves or ensure that they are undertaken by a person who is competent to do so.
What Are the Duties of the Responsible Person?
A Responsible Person must ensure general fire precautions are taken and implement fire safety policies and procedures, according to the RRO. The Responsible Person must conduct a fire risk assessment of the premises and review this assessment regularly.
The fire risk assessment needs to thoroughly review any potential areas where a fire might start and details on the control measures necessary to reduce any fire risks. A fire risk assessment should also provide information on the emergency procedures that are to be taken if a fire does break out.
Can a Risk Assessor Be the Responsible Person?
The responsible person can conduct the risk assessment themselves, but the responsible person can also appoint someone else for this task.
The law does stipulate that the person who does the risk assessment is Competent.
A Competent Person is defined by the RRO as someone who ‘has sufficient training and experience or knowledge and other qualities to enable him properly to assist in undertaking the preventive and protective measures.’
In practice, this means that the person performing the fire risk assessment does not need to have special qualifications. However, to be competent, the fire risk assessor must have a good knowledge of all applicable health and safety legislation, understand the principles of fire safety in the workplace, and know how to conduct a risk assessment. This could be a professional fire risk assessor, or an employee or manager that has undertaken accredited fire safety training.
How to Perform a Fire Risk Assessment
The main purpose of a fire risk assessment is to identify potential fire risks and develop effective measures to eliminate or control these risks.
There are a series of five general steps that must be taken when conducting any type of risk assessment. The five risk assessment steps regarding fire safety are:
- Identify any fire hazards in the workplace
- Determine who is at risk of harm and how they may be harmed
- Evaluate the level of each risk, then develop and implement measures to eliminate or control the risks
- Record all findings and provide details on an emergency plan and what fire safety training will be provided to staff
- Conduct regular reviews of the fire risk assessment and update procedures or control measures when necessary
The RRO does not stipulate how often a fire risk assessment should be reviewed. However, the responsible person is advised to regularly review the fire risk assessment to make certain it’s still effective. If any changes to the work environment or workplace procedures happen, then the fire risk assessment must immediately be re-evaluated.
Where Can You Find Fire Risk Assessment Training?
Although the Responsible Person can delegate a Competent Person to perform a fire risk assessment, they are still legally responsible for fire safety in the workplace. Fire safety training can ensure that you and your employees have the skills to properly conduct fire risk assessments as per RRO requirements.
Human Focus offers a fully accredited fire awareness training course that will teach you the principles of fire safety and of fire risk assessment. The course has a running time of approximately 45 minutes and can be completed online whenever it’s convenient for you. Upon successful completion, trainees will receive a downloadable, printable certificate endorsed by the International Institute of Risk & Safety Management (IIRSM).