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Fire Risk - Frequently Asked Questions

A formal fire risk assessment is needed for all non-domestic premises

Is a fire risk assessment a legal requirement?

Yes, in England and Wales, Regulation 3 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, make it a legal requirement for every employer and self-employed person to make an assessment of the health and safety risks arising out of their work.

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 applies to all work activities. It requires that:

  1. an adequate number of competent persons must be appointed to assist them to comply with their obligations under health and safety legislation
  2. must assess the risks to the health and safety of persons arising out of or in connection with the conduct by him of his undertaking. The significant findings of the risk assessment must be recorded where the responsible person employs 5 or more persons.
  3. must take the preventive and protective measures and the measures to comply with the law identified by the risk assessments.
    must take appropriate arrangements for the effective planning, organisation, control, monitoring and review of the preventive and protective measures.
  4. must provide their employees and employers and employees working in property under their control with specified health and safety information.

See http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/1999/3242/pdfs/uksi_19993242_en.pdf for further information.

What is a fire risk assessment?

A fire risk assessment is aimed at satisfying the requirements of RRO and its objective will primarily be the life safety of the occupants of the building. It must be recorded if you have a total of five or more employees.

It is a structured and thorough assessment of the fire risk within the property and the surrounding areas where there is an impact on other properties and organisations. It considers who may be especially at risk; how to eliminate or reduce the risk from fire as far as is reasonably practical and provide general fire precautions to deal with any risk. It addresses what additional measures are required to ensure fire safety where flammable or explosive materials are used or stored.

It involves a physical inspection of the property that enables the responsible person to determine the adequacy of the existing fire precautions and the need for, and nature of any additional fire precautions that may be required. A review of fire safety management within in the property/organisation will be undertaken and, where appropriate, create an emergency plan.

Who should carry out the risk assessment?

The RRO allows for a competent person to carry out an assessment. A competent person will need to be able to demonstrate that they are an appropriately qualified individual with suitable training, knowledge and experience. This competent person can be you, an employee or an external individual/company.

If you use an external individual/company to conduct your fire risk assessment, that you will be responsible for, you should satisfy yourself that they are suitably competent and qualified to conduct the risk assessment.

When should a fire risk assessment be reviewed?

The Responsible Person should undertake a regular review of the fire risk assessment. There is no set definition of regularly, however annually is generally accepted as best practice. The review should be undertaken at the review date indicated in the report, or earlier if there are reasons to suspect that it is no longer valid, e.g.

  • Issue of an Enforcement Notice;
  • Arson, near miss or fire;
  • Any changes in legislation;
  • Any extensions or conversions;
  • Any change of use of the premises, special, technical and organisational measures, or organisation of the work being undertaken within the property undergoes significant changes.

Where any changes to an assessment are required as a result of any such review, the Responsible Person must ensure these changes are undertaken.

Who is the 'responsible person'?

In relation to a workplace, this is the employer, if the workplace is to any extent under his control or 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 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.

Where two or more responsible persons share, or have duties in respect of, premises (whether on a temporary or a permanent basis) each such person must co-operate with the other responsible person concerned so far as is necessary to enable them to comply with the requirements and prohibitions imposed on them by or under the RRO;

They must take into account the nature of his activities and take all reasonable steps to co-ordinate the measures they take to comply with the requirements and prohibitions imposed on him by or under the RRO, with the measures the other responsible persons are taking to comply with the requirements and prohibitions imposed on them by the RRO.

How does The Housing Act 2004 apply to me?

The Housing Act 2004 includes the requirement for local authorities to review housing conditions within their area with a view to identifying any action that may need to be taken about those conditions under the provisions contained within the Act.

Where a local authority has identified a prescribed fire hazard in a House in Multiple Occupation or in any non-domestic areas of a premises containing one or more flats and intend to take enforcement action may take enforcement action.

The types of enforcement action which are available to local authorities are outlined in the Act and include improvement notices, prohibition orders, hazard awareness notices, emergency remedial action, emergency prohibition orders, demolition orders, and slum clearance declarations.

What are the legal responsibilities of landlords and managing agents?

The legal responsibilities of landlords and managing agents result from the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. (c.37), the main sections of the act affecting landlords and managing agents are sections 3 and 4.

Section 3 of the act imposes a duty of every managing agent to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons who may be affected are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety.

Section 4 of the act imposes a duty on each managing agent who has, to any extent, control of non-domestic property used as a place of work to take such measures as it is reasonable for a person in his position to take to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the property, all means of access thereto or egress, and any plant or substance in the property is safe and without risks to health.

The duties under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 cannot be delegated or passed to contractors.

I have a fire certificate. Do I need to take other action?

Yes. When the RRO came into force that fire certificates are no longer issued and existing certificates are no longer valid.

You will need to prepare a fire risk assessment and emergency plan.

A fairly recent fire certificate may be a good starting point in preparing your fire risk assessment. The information contained in the fire certificate may assist you in assessing the existing control measures.

Should I wait for the Fire Officer to visit and identify any action required?

No. You will need to prepare a fire risk assessment and emergency plan. The findings of the risk assessment must be recorded where:

  • A license under an enactment is in force.
  • An Alterations Notice under the Fire Safety Order requires it.
  • You are an employer and have five or more employees.

The risk assessment must cover both employees and any other relevant person. This may include employees of other employers, as well as visitors, contractors etc. An inspecting officer will expect to see your risk assessment and emergency plan when an inspection is carried out.

I'm a Managing Agent; do I have any responsibilities under the legislation?

This will depend upon the terms of your contract with the building owner. The RRO applies to any person who has, to any extent, control of a premise. You should ensure that tenants are aware of the RRO and cooperate with them to ensure compliance.

In multi-occupied buildings you may have a responsibility to prepare, on the owner’s behalf, a fire risk assessment in respect of common parts of the building. Any such risk assessment must be coordinated with those of the occupiers.

I own a building, but I lease it out and I have no direct involvement; does the Fire Safety Order apply to me?

This will depend upon the terms of the lease. The RRO applies to any person who has, to any extent, control of a premise. You should ensure your tenants are aware of the RRO and cooperate with them to ensure compliance.

In multi-occupied buildings, the owner may have a responsibility in respect of common parts of the building and must prepare a fire risk assessment for those areas that is coordinated with those of the occupiers.

I am just one of the businesses in a large, multi-occupied building. Who has responsibility here?

Under the RRO, each employer is responsible for the safety of both their employees and any other relevant person. This may include employees of other employers as well as visitors, contractors etc. You must take account of the risk to both your employees and other relevant persons to the extent to which you have control of the premises and other employers in the building must do the same.

The owner (or landlord if they have legal responsibility) of the building must take into account the risk to persons in the common parts.

Article 22 of the Fire Safety Order requires all parties to cooperate, where two or more responsible persons have duties in respect of the Order.

I'm an employee. Do I need to take any action?

If your employer has delegated responsibilities to you; e.g. you are the Building Manager, you will need to carry out those duties in accordance with the RRO or other appropriate legislation.

I have a small business and only employ one or two people. Do I need to be aware of the RRO?

If your employer has delegated responsibilities to you; e.g. you are the Building Manager, you will need to carry out those duties in accordance with the RRO or other appropriate legislation.

The owner (or landlord if they have legal responsibility) of the building must take into account the risk to persons in the common parts.

Article 22 of the Fire Safety Order requires all parties to cooperate, where two or more responsible persons have duties in respect of the Order.

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