Is It A Legal Requirement To Have A Fire Risk Assessment?
The answer to the question is almost certainly yes for all commercial premises and shared areas of domestic premises, such as blocks of flats.
The relevant legislation in England and Wales is The Regulatory (Fire Safety) Reform Order 2005 (similar legislation exists for both Scotland and Northern Ireland). Under the Order, anyone who has control of premises, or anyone who has a degree of control over certain areas may be a ‘responsible person’.
A responsible person could be: –
- the employer for those parts of premises staff may go to;
- the managing agent or owner for shared parts of premises;
- the occupier, such as self-employed people or voluntary organisations if they have any control; or
- any other person who has some control over a part of the premises.
By law, if you are responsible for commercial premises, you must make sure that a suitable and sufficient Fire Risk Assessment has been completed by a competent person. It’s a legal requirement to carry out a detailed assessment identifying the fire hazards and risks within the premises.
So, What Is The Responsible Person Required To Do?
There are a number of responsibilities placed upon the responsible person. As a responsible person you must: –
- Consider who may be especially at risk
- Eliminate or reduce the risk of fire as far as is reasonably practical
- Provide general fire precautions to deal with any risk
- Take additional measures to ensure fire safety where flammable or explosive materials are used or stored
- Create a plan to deal with any emergency and where necessary record any findings
- Maintain general fire precautions, and facilities provided for use by firefighters
- Keep any findings of the risk assessment under review
Could I Do The Fire Risk Assessment Myself?
You could attempt to do the Fire Risk Assessment yourself by following the Fire Safety Risk Assessment Guides. However, if you don’t have the expertise or even the time to do the Fire Risk Assessment yourself, then you’ll need to appoint someone who is competent i.e. a Fire Risk Assessor.
If you are appointing a Fire Risk Assessor to carry out your Fire Risk Assessment, you must ensure that they possess the necessary skills, qualifications and experience. The easiest way to do this is to use a Fire Risk Assessor who is accredited to a National Register, such as the Institute of Fire Engineers (IFE). To become registered requires the Fire Risk Assessor to demonstrate their competence, which includes a rigorous interview process.
A competent Fire Risk Assessor should be able to help you identify the main fire risks within your premises, to quantify the risk and to suggest what, if any, improvements might be necessary. The Regulatory Reform Order 2005 states that the “responsible person” is responsible for meeting the requirements of the Order, including conducting a suitable and sufficient Fire Risk Assessment. So, using a Fire Risk Assessor accredited to a national Fire Risk Assessor register should give you that assurance.
How Often Do I Need To Review My Fire Risk Assessment?
There is no clear timescale for review, however, the law says that the “responsible person” must ensure that it is reviewed regularly so that it remains up to date. It is widely considered reasonable to review your Fire Risk Assessment at least annually.
You should make sure you review and update your Fire Risk Assessment if you suspect it is no longer relevant, such as after a near miss fire incident and every time there is a significant change to the level of risk in your premises. This could include: –
- If you store more materials which can catch fire easily
- A new night shift starts
- A change in the type or number of people using your premises
- A deterioration in the condition of certain residents (for example in a Care Home)
- Alterations to the layout of a particular area of the building
- The change of use of the premises (or part of the premises)
- A change of persons having control of the premises
This is not intended to be an exhaustive list, but should provide a flavour of the circumstances that should prompt a review of your Fire Risk Assessment.
Other factors to consider are the general wear and tear that occurs during normal use of the premises, which may include fire doors and unobvious breaches of fire compartmentation. Even if you suspect that nothing significant has changed in the last year, seemingly minor changes such as the upgrading of, for example, an IT system can result in the fire compartmentation within a building being compromised when holes are made in walls to route cables through. These are not always obvious to the Building Manager as the holes are usually made in concealed spaces such as ceiling and floor voids. So, unless you have robust controls in place to address such issues at the time, it is always recommended that you undertake an annual review of your Fire Risk Assessment.