Under the Fire Safety Order 2005 a 'responsible person', must carry out, or appoint a 'competent person' to carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment of the risks of fire to your employees and other 'relevant persons' who may be affected by your work or business.
A 'responsible person'
In the workplace a 'responsible person' would be the employer, if the workplace is to any extent under their control. In any other premises, it would be the person who has control of the premises or the owner (as occupier or otherwise) where a trade, business or other undertaking (for profit or not) is carried on.
If you employ five or more employees you should keep a formal record of any significant findings and remedial measures which have, or may need to be taken.
Responsible persons under the Order are required, following a risk assessment, to implement appropriate fire safety measures to minimise the risk to life from fire; and to keep the assessment up to date.
A 'competent person'
The competent person or fire risk assessor need not possess any specific academic qualifications but should:
- understand the relevant fire safety legislation
- have appropriate education, training, knowledge and experience in the principles of fire safety
- have an understanding of fire development and the behaviour of people in fire
- understand the fire hazards, fire risks and relevant factors associated with occupants at special risk within the buildings of the type in question
- have appropriate training and/or experience in carrying out fire risk assessments
Fire Risk Assessment Competency Council: guide to choosing a competent fire risk assessor.
A 'relevant person'
A relevant person means any person (including the responsible person) who is or may be on the premises, and, any person in the immediate vicinity of the premises who is at risk from a fire on the premises.
The risk assessment
Whilst the Order does not define suitable and sufficient, it is generally considered that a risk assessment should do the following:
- identify the fire risks arising from or in connection with work - attention should be paid to sources of ignition, sources of fuel and work processes
- employers and the self employed are expected to take reasonable steps to help themselves identify fire risks, for example by looking at appropriate sources of information such as legislation, and codes of practice or by reference to a competent individual
- identify the location of people at significant risk in case of fire - it will be necessary to identify the areas that persons will frequent, whether they are employees or others such as contractors working on site or members of the public
- particular attention should be given to individuals who are especially vulnerable, such as young persons, the elderly or those with disabilities
- evaluate the risks:
- are existing fire safety measures within the premises adequate
- are sources of fuel and ignition controlled
- is there adequate means for detecting fire and giving warning
- is there adequate means of escape in case of fire from all parts of the premises
- has adequate and appropriate fire-fighting equipment been provided, and is it suitably located
- is there an adequate testing and maintenance regime in place for fire precautions within the premises
- have employees been adequately trained in fire safety procedures within the premises and in the use of fire-fighting equipment
- record findings and action taken - prepare an emergency plan, inform, instruct and give training to employees in fire precautions
- significant findings should include:
- the significant hazards identified in the assessment - that is, those hazards which might pose serious risk to workers or others who might be affected by the work activities if they were not properly controlled
- the existing control measures in place and the extent to which they control the risks (this need not replicate details of measures more fully described in works manuals etc but could refer to them)
- the population which may be affected by these significant risks or hazards, including any groups of employees who are especially at risk
- keep the assessment under review - generally the review date should be one year from the date of completion of the risk assessment, however it may be necessary to set an earlier date depending on the type of premises, processes carried out, etc.
Risk assessments for small, intermediate and large/complex premises
- for small premises presenting few or simple hazards a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment can be a very straightforward process
- in many intermediate cases the fire risk assessment will need to be more sophisticated. Some areas of the assessment may require specialist advice such as in a particularly complicated building
- large and complex premises will require the most developed and sophisticated fire risk assessments particularly where fire engineering solutions have been developed to overcome difficult fire safety issues
Sources of information
- The Approved Code Of Practice to the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. ISBN 0 71 762 488 9. Available from HSE Books.
- PAS 79:2007, Fire Risk Assessment - Guidance and a recommended methodology (By C.S. Todd and Associates) ISBN 978 0 580 50683 3 Available from the British standards Institute.