Who is responsible for carrying out a fire risk assessment?

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRO) states that almost all types of premises – unless a single domestic dwelling – must be subject to a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment. It is the duty of the ‘Responsible Person’ to take general fire precautions as far as reasonably practicable under the RRO Part 2 to ensure the premises is safe for all relevant persons and to reduce the risk of harm and prevent fire. 

The ‘Relevant Persons’ are defined in the RRO Part 1 Article 2 as:

  • Any person (including the Responsible Person) who is or may be lawfully on the premises.
  • Any person in the immediate vicinity of the premises who is at risk from a fire on the premises but does not include a fire-fighter who is carrying out his duties in relation to a function of a fire and rescue authority under section 7, 8 or 9 of the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004.

The ‘Responsible Person’ is defined in the RRO Part 1 Article 3 as:

  • In relation to a workplace, the employer, if the workplace is to any extend under their control;
  • In relation to any premises not falling within the above;
    • The person who has control of the premises (as occupier or otherwise) in connection with the carrying on by a trade, business or other undertaking.
    • 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.

To summarise, a ‘Responsible Person’ could be the employer, owner, landlord or appointed managing agent of the premises. In some buildings there may be more than one Responsible Person.

 

How often should a fire risk assessment be undertaken/reviewed?

The fire safety order 2005 states that if necessary, the ‘Responsible Person’ should seek safety assistance to assist when carrying out a risk assessment by appointing a competent person. The RRO Part 2 Article 18 defines a competent person providing safety assistance as an individual who has sufficient training and experience or knowledge and other qualities to enable them properly to assist in undertaking the preventative and protective measures.

In terms of undertaking/reviewing fire risk assessments there is often no prescriptive time frame, but the ‘Responsible Person’ should regularly review the document to ensure it remains up to date and relevant to the premises. If the fire risk assessment is no longer valid due to a significant change to the premises such as structural alterations, change of building use, increase in occupancy or use by a different group of people etc. then the risk of fire has changed and a review of the existing fire risk assessment is required with the changes made as appropriate.

It should be noted that a prescribed record of the fire risk assessment should be documented if:

  • The company employs five or more people (not necessary in the building but within the company as a whole);
  • A license under an enactment is in force in relation to the premises such as a license to sell alcohol;
  • An alterations notice has been served by the local fire and rescue authority.

 

The 4 types of fire risk assessment

The RRO does not expand on how intrusive a fire safety risk assessment should be. When it comes to creating a fire risk assessment for residential properties only, there are 4 different ‘types’ defined as endorsed by the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) ‘Fire Safety in Purpose Built Blocks of Flats’, issued by the Local Government Association in 2012.

  • Type 1 Fire Risk Assessments are the most common type and is a non-destructive assessment of the common areas of the building only and does not include access to the private dwellings. In some instances, it may be requested by the client to inspect the front door of the private dwellings as part of the assessment.
  • Type 2 Fire Risk Assessments are similar to Type 1 assessments of the common areas of the buildings only. Type 2 assessments should only be carried out if there is good reason to believe the structural compartmentation is flawed as this involves a contractor sampling the construction, carrying out any fire stopping afterwards.
  • Type 3 Fire Risk Assessments are non-destructive assessments which cover beyond the requirements of legislation and consider the individual dwellings in addition to the common parts.
  • Type 4 Fire Risk Assessments are similar to Type 3 assessments in the individual dwellings and common parts. Like Type 2, Type 4 assessments should only be carried out if there is good reason to believe the structural compartmentation in both the common areas and individual dwellings are flawed and will again involve a contractor sampling the construction in the areas in question.

It is important to stress, the above types ONLY apply to domestic dwellings and not commercial properties. If the existing compartmentation is insufficient and as a result people are at risk, the emergency plan for the premises should be reviewed by a competent person.  

 

DSEAR risk assessments

Similar to fire risk assessments, the RRO Schedule 1 Parts 1 and 4 Articles 9 and 12 states that where dangerous substances are held on site, the ‘Responsible Person’ must apply measures to control the risks they pose. The Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations (DSEAR) 2002 provides advice on best practise and is supported by the Approved Code of Practise (ACOP).

The objective of a DSEAR risk assessment is to enhance the safety of occupants through the elimination or by reducing the risks of fire, explosion and other risks relating to dangerous substances and potentially explosive atmospheres.

As of June 2015, gases under pressure and substances which are corrosive to metals are also included under the legislation.

Download our guide on DSEAR risk assessments here.