Frequently Asked Questions
Section 1: Understanding fire risk assessments and who needs them
What is a fire risk assessment?
A fire risk assessment is a methodical review of your premises to assess it for fire risk and to then identify any actions needed to reduce or remove those risks. Fire risk assessments follow 5 key steps:
• Identify the fire hazards
• Identify the people at risk
• Evaluate the risks then act to remove or reduce them
• Record, plan, inform and train people in what they need to do
• Review – because over time, the risks can change
What’s the relevant UK law relating to fire risk assessments?
The requirements are set out in the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. It applies to all business and non-domestic premises in England and Wales. You are the ‘responsible person’ for fire safety if you are the employer, owner, landlord, occupier or anyone else with control of the premises (such as a facilities or building manager). There can be more than one responsible person but you must work together to meet your fire safety responsibilities. The Fire Safety Order also applies if you have paying guests.
Who needs a fire risk assessment?
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 applies to a range of premises: for example, business premises, non-domestic or residential premises, B and Bs, guesthouses, self-catering lets, schools and so on. It also covers the common parts of blocks of flats and houses in multiple occupation (usually referred to as HMOs).
The responsible person must ensure a fire risk assessment takes place to comply with the Regulatory Reform Order 2005. Where there are 5 or more people in the business, the assessment must be recorded in writing. (We would actually advise it’s best practice to record it irrespective of size to help with your overall management of fire safety.)
Why should I have a fire risk assessment?
First of all, as explained above, the law requires you to do it. But clearly the law only exists because of the fundamental importance of protecting people from fire.
Fire Risk Assessments identify the unique fire risks in a building and the people who may be affected. It then leads into a process where you take action to reduce or remove those risks. Essentially, your fire risk assessment forms the basis of your whole fire safety programme. Fire risk assessments are done to prevent damage to premises and property, but first and foremost they are done to prevent injuries and loss of life due to fire.
Can I do my own fire risk assessments?
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 allows for any competent person (someone who has sufficient training, experience or knowledge) to carry out fire risk assessments. So yes, in some instances – usually for small straightforward premises – you might be able to do it. But as premises or circumstances become more complex, it is sensible to engage someone who has comprehensive knowledge and experience in fire risk assessment to do it.
As the responsible person, you are still ultimately accountable for your fire safety – so make sure you satisfy yourself with regards to the competency of an external assessor.
Section 2: During and after the fire risk assessment
What happens during the assessor’s visit?
Our assessor will take the time to understand your business and its processes. They will walk around your premises, carefully examining all aspects of fire safety. They will do their best not to disrupt you in any way but they will need to talk to the responsible person along with anyone else they identify who could help with gathering the relevant information. It’s difficult to predict exactly how long they will need to spend at your premises but we can give you a rough guide once we’ve spoken to you and have an understanding of the nature of your business and premises.
What do I get at the end of the fire risk assessment?
You’ll get a full and comprehensive fire risk assessment report which will give you clear and detailed findings presented in a straightforward way.
We’ll also give you an action plan made up of recommendations to help you carry out any actions that need completing. We’ll offer advice about fulfilling your fire safety responsibilities in a sensible and cost effective way along with post assessment support with any issues you have.
Once the fire risk assessment’s done, am I fully compliant with the regulations?
No, the assessment is only the starting point but remember that it gives you a comprehensive assessment of everything that needs addressing. That makes it far easier to then address your fire safety responsibilities in an organised and effective way.
How often should I review my fire risk assessment?
If nothing major changes in your business, then we’d recommend that as a minimum it is reviewed annually to ensure it remains up to date. But be aware of any changes in your workplace that could mean you must revisit your assessment. They could include a structural change to the building, a significant staff change or a change in building function. If you use us to complete your fire risk assessment, we can offer you a renewal reminder letter service to help you keep track of when it is due.
Could I be visited by the fire and rescue service at my premises?
As the enforcing authorities for the Regulations, it is possible they could carry out a routine inspection at your premises. You will be given notice ahead of it and if you wish we can liaise with them on your behalf.
What happens if I don't comply?
If a risk exists and isn’t being managed, the fire authorities have a statutory duty to enforce compliance.
At one end of the spectrum are informal enforcement options, such as action plans and notifications of fire safety deficiencies. The more serious the deficiency or breach, the more serious the enforcement options become. An enforcement notice, an alterations notice or a prohibition notice may be served on you. At the most severe end of the scale where, for example, your failure’s putting people at risk of serious injury or death, you could be prosecuted, potentially leading to high fines and imprisonment.
Prosecution could also be considered if you have failed to comply with any requirement or restriction imposed by a notice issued under the Order.