The first point to note is that - with very few exceptions - every premises (including outdoor and temporary structures) other than individual dwellings, requires a Fire Risk Assessment (FRA) under legislation. And even where dwellings are concerned, if a building contains two or more structures, then a Fire Risk Assessment, which includes the external structure, is still required by the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2006 [as amended by the Fire Safety Act 2021].*
The Responsible Person (RP) - or Duty Holder in Scotland & Northern Ireland- bears the legal responsibility for carrying out a suitable and sufficient Fire Risk Assessment. This person (or corporate body) is usually the Employer, or if no one is employed, the person having control over a premises or if neither exists (e.g., in empty buildings), the Landlord is responsible.
So, other than box ticking to meet legal duties, are there any advantages to carrying out a Fire Risk Assessment?
There are indeed and these include:
- Allowing tailor made building specific solutions. The legislation is functional rather than prescriptive allowing fire safety provision to be risk based rather than excessive and for more than one solution to a fire safety issue to be considered, thereby giving flexibility and cost effectiveness.
- Safety of relevant persons. By carrying out Fire Risk Assessments and implementing the required measures you can ensure the safety of all persons on or close to your premises. Fire deaths in premises other than dwellings have shrunk exponentially over the last 60 years thanks to an ever-evolving regime of fire safety legislation
- Prevention of loss. Fires cause millions of pounds of damage to premises every year with some businesses not surviving the impact. Unlike previous legislation, which focussed solely on measures for when a fire breaks out, the current regime, through the Fire Risk Assessment, requires an effort is made to reduce or remove the likelihood of a fire occurring in the first place by assessing all likely fire risks and determining how to eliminate or reduce/control them.
Who can carry out a Fire Risk Assessment?
In order to reduce excessive burden on businesses, the legislation allows anyone who is competent to carry out a Fire Risk Assessment and for smaller business owners and organisations there is a suite of guidance published by the Government to assist with this.
Where the Responsible Person feels they don’t have the skills, experience, or knowledge to do this, if they have an employee who does, then they can act as a Competent Person to assist the Responsible Person with the Fire Risk Assessment. However, increasingly external contractors are used for this role.
As prosecutions since 2006 have shown, not every external assessor, be they individual or part of a larger company, is up to the task and as the Responsible Person always retains liability to some degree it’s important they choose wisely. It is recommended that only accredited fire risk assessors are used with individuals on one of the national competency registers (a searchable consolidated list of assessors from across the various registers is here:
Further assurance can be found by using third party accredited companies such as those on the BAFE & Warrington FRACS schemes (https://bafesearch.secure.force.com/wb/wbCompanyListing & https://www.warringtonfire.com/certified-companies/fracs-company)
So, in conclusion, a good quality Fire Risk Assessment by a suitably competent person will bring many benefits to an organisation in addition to simple compliance with the law.
*There are subtle differences in Scotland & Northern Ireland, which have separate devolved legislation, compared to England and Wales.
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The information contained within this blog is provided solely for general informational and educational purposes and is not intended as a substitute for professional advice. Before taking any actions based upon this information, we advise the reader to consult any and all relevant statutory or regulatory guidance and where felt necessary to consult a qualified fire or industry regulation professional. The use or reliance on any information contained herein is solely at the reader’s risk.