Put simply, a fire risk assessment is an audit which is carried out to ensure you have adequate fire precautions within your building to reduce the chances of a fire starting and ensuring that if one does, you have the right procedures in place to make sure everybody can safely evacuate.

There are five steps to a fire risk assessment and they are listed as follows:

1. Identify the fire hazards.

An assessor will firstly identify any hazards within your building for example, ignition sources, blocked fire escapes, locked fire exits or overloaded electrical sockets.

2. Identify people at risk.

The fire risk assessor will then identify who at is at risk on the premises. It may be all staff members, some members of the public, young persons or persons with a disability. The purpose is to work out who could be at risk.

3. Evaluate, remove or reduce the risks.

Once the fire hazards and persons at risk have been identified then the assessor will evaluate those risks and see whether they can be completely removed or reduced to an acceptable level. For example, a blocked fire exit will be unblocked immediately or it may be determined to be safer to move a person with a disability to a ground floor office to ensure they can safely evacuate in a fire situation.

4. Record your findings, prepare an emergency plan and provide training.

Any findings from the fire risk assessment should be recorded and then acted upon. The assessment will come with an action plan with a list of recommendations and a timescale for completion. An emergency plan should be prepared to ensure you have a procedure in place to safely evacuate the building. Fire training should be provided. This may be induction training, basic fire awareness training , fire warden training or all three depending on the number of staff, type of building and level of risk.

5. Review and update the fire risk assessment regularly.

Finally, the last stage is to review your fire risk assessment on a regular basis to ensure you are maintaining the fire precautions within your building. Under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, we recommend this is at least every twelve months or before if there have been any significant alteration to the building or procedures.

Yes, under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, it is up to the responsible person for the premises to ensure a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment has been completed. A competent person needs to be appointed to ensure this is carried out to the right standard.

These fire risk assessments should be reviewed every year to ensure your compliance under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and more frequently if your premises have been subject to any internal or structural alterations or you have had any significant changes such as an increase in the number of staff or a change of occupancy type.

There is no definitive timescale for this question under the Regulatory (Reform) Fire Safety Order 2005 and it depends on the type of building/premises you occupy, who carried out the last fire risk assessment, whether there have been any significant changes since the last assessment among many more factors.

The purpose of a fire risk assessment is to identify any risks within your building and then aim to reduce, remove or eliminate that risk to acceptable levels. It is your responsibility to carry out the findings of a fire risk assessment and keep on top of the maintenance of your fire protection systems such as the fire alarm and emergency lighting systems.

We recommend a competent person reviews your fire risk assessment at least every twelve months as a minimum to ensure any shortcomings are picked up on a regular basis and there may have been other changes to your building (for example a multi occupied building), that you are not aware of that could have an impact on the fire safety within your building.

For lower risk properties, you may decide to review your fire risk assessment only every two-three years, this may include a small shop with low numbers of staff and customers or a single storey ground floor office with more than one fire exit.

Your local Fire Service act as the enforcing authority for your building/premises and can decide to visit you at any time to check on the fire precautions within your building. They can request to see your fire risk assessment at any time under the Regulatory (Reform) Fire Safety Order 2005 and this is why it is important to make sure your assessment is valid by ensuring it contains up to date information and ensure you are complying with the recommendations within the action plan.

By having it reviewed every twelve months and keeping a fire logbook with all your record keeping, you stand the best chance of complying with fire safety legislation and keeping the occupants in your premises safe.

It is down to the ‘Responsible Person’ within the workplace to ensure a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment is completed by a ‘Competent Person’.

The ‘Responsible Person’ in the workplace 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.

A ‘Competent Person’ or Fire Risk Assessor need not possess any specific academic qualifications but should:

  • Understand the relevant fire safety legislation
  • Have the appropriate education, training, knowledge and experience in the principles of fire safety
  • Have a good understanding of fire development and the behaviour of people in a fire situation
  • Understand the fire hazards, fire risks and relevant factors associated with occupants at special risk within their building
  • Have appropriate training and/or experience in carrying out fire risk assessments

The two ways a fire risk assessor can demonstrate their competence on a professional basis are:

  • Professional Body Registration schemes or;
  • Certification by a Certification Body that is UKAS accredited for the activity.

Below is a list of some of the registration schemes which can demonstrate a fire risk assessor’s competence.

  • The BAFE ‘SP205’ company scheme
  • Institute of Fire Prevention Officers (IFPO)
  • Institute of Fire Safety Managers (IFSM)
  • Institution of Fire Engineers (IFE)
  • Register of Skilled Persons (ROSP)
  • Warrington Certification Ltd

Yes, your fire extinguishers should all be commissioned upon delivery under British Standard 5306 and then serviced every year to ensure they are all working correctly and in the correct locations. We provide the complete service from delivery to installation and commissioning, we also ensure that each extinguisher has the appropriate ID sign in place.

Your fire alarm system will need to be serviced at least every six months to comply with British Standard 5389 and you should also be testing the system weekly and recording the tests in a fire logbook. Your emergency lighting system should be tested at least once a year for a full discharge test under British Standard 5266 and you should also be testing the system monthly and recording the tests in a fire logbook.

Here at Whale Fire, annual inspections are built into the programme so we will contact you when these services are due to ensure your continuing compliance with fire safety laws. This leaves you with the peace of mind knowing everything is being taken care off for you.

This all depends on the type of building and number of staff. For some small buildings with multiple fire exits, you may not need any fire wardens but for most premises, you will need some fire wardens and the number depends on other factors including the number of floors, if staff members work shifts, if residents sleep on the premises etc.

The first step to safely addressing any fire hazards is to be aware that you have them, what they are and how they have been identified. You should have a fire risk assessment in place under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and this should have been carried out by a ‘competent person’.

Once this has been completed and you are aware of your fire hazards, the fire risk assessment report should have identified ways to deal with these hazards by either removing them completely or by reducing them to acceptable levels.

Let’s take a simple example. You have become aware that you are using portable heaters underneath desks in your office close to combustible materials and this constitutes a fire hazard. Firstly, the reason should this is a fire hazard is you are using a potential ignition source (portable heater) close to combustible materials in an enclosed space. One of the first rules of fire safety is to separate ignition sources from any potential flammable material.

So what can you do? Well to remove the hazard completely you could stop using portable heaters all together. But if that is not desirable or practical then you should at least move the portable heaters from under your desk and use them in an open space away from any combustible materials, thus addressing the fire hazard or controlling it rather than completely removing it.

Let’s look at a slightly more complicated example – you have identified a long dead-end area of escape within your office premises and this route is not protected by fire doors or automatic fire detection. So what can you do? This in itself is not actually a fire hazard as you are not necessarily more likely to have a fire along a dead-end escape route than anywhere else in your building but what it does do is potentially put you and any other occupiers at risk should a fire occur.

You have a series of options. Firstly you could remove the risk completely by prohibiting anybody from occupying this area. Assuming that is not practical then you could protect the route in fire resisting construction (e.g. fire doors and glazing) and/or with automatic fire detection in the offices and corridor. In extreme cases, you may have to add sprinkler protection in this area to compensate for the excessive travel distance. These are all possibilities that a competent fire risk assessor would be able to identify and suggest.

Another example would be if you had builders on site using blow torches and welding equipment – how would you address this hazard? What you should do is ensure they are working under the Construction Design and Management Regulations CDM 2015 and Construction (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulation 1996, which requires that they have a risk assessment in place and in this case a hot permit to work which would ensure all equipment would be being used safely at all times.

I hope this helps – there are all sorts of fire hazards and if you have one that you need addressing, please feel free to email us at info@whalefire.co.uk and we will do our best to address it for you.

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (The Order) deals with fire safety law.

Does it apply to me?

Yes- if you own, manage or operate a business. You will be deemed the Responsible Person for the purposes of The Order. The onus is upon you to ensure full compliance with The Order.

Does it apply to all buildings?

It applies to all buildings and structures other than individual private dwellings.

What are my duties and obligations under The Order?

As the Responsible Person, it will be incumbent upon you to ensure your workplace meets the required standard as set out by The Order by ensuring you have a fire risk assessment and your employees are provided with adequate fire safety training. For further information on the Regulatory (Reform) Fire Safety) Order 2005, Please download our PDF guide here.

If you are a landlord you will have legal obligations and duties with regard to fire safety and the protection of your properties and the people who live in them. It is important that you apprise yourself of these duties and obligations and ensure complete compliance with the legislation and regulations as ignorance of the law is not a defence.

The three main pieces of legislation which cover this area of law are

  • The Housing Act 2004
  • The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015
  • The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order (2005) (The Order)

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order (2005) (The Order) stipulates that owners, managers, agents are likely to be deemed to be the ‘Responsible Persons’ for the purposes of The Order. What it means is that any person who has some level of control over your property must take reasonable steps to reduce the risk from fire to an acceptable level and ensure people can safely escape if there is a fire. As a landlord, it is likely that for the purposes of The Order you will be The Responsible Person.

As the Responsible Person it will be incumbent upon you to:

1. Ensure you obtain a Fire Risk Assessment of each property you rent out.

The objective of the Fire Risk Assessment is to identify and evaluate all fire risks to which ‘relevant people’ are exposed and eliminate or reduce those risks and to ensure that in the event of a fire, people can safely escape. This can be achieved by carrying out a fire risk assessment.

Relevant people are those persons who are legally allowed on the premises, e.g. staff, visitors, residents and contractors etc.

If you are the responsible person, you must make sure you carry out a fire risk assessment. This task can be carried out by a fire safety professional. However, you will still be responsible, in law, for meeting the order.

As a landlord, if you own or manage a block of flats you will be required by legislation to carry out a fire risk assessment of all the common areas of your properties.

If you own or manage Houses in Multiple Occupancy (HMO’S) you are also required to carry out a fire risk assessment of the property.

The Fire Risk Assessment must:

  • Identify fire hazards
  • Identify people at risk
  • Evaluate, remove or reduce, and protect from risk
  • Record, plan, inform, instruct and train
  • Review.

2. Ensure the Fire Risk Assessment is reviewed.

Any such assessments must be reviewed by the responsible person regularly so as to keep it up to date particularly if there is reason to suspect it is no longer valid or there has been a significant change in the matters to which it relates, including when the premises, special, technical and organisational measures, or organisation of the work undergo significant changes, extensions or conversions. Where changes to an assessment are required as a result of any such review, the responsible person must make them as soon as practicable after the assessment is made or reviewed. The responsible person must record the significant findings of the assessment, including the measures which have been or will be taken by the responsible person and any group of persons identified by the assessment as being especially at risk.

Good practise and best advice is to review each fire risk assessment annually.

3. Provide Information: Keeping Tenants and Visitors informed.

Signage is extremely important. In the event of a fire, all relevant persons need to know what action needs to be taken and where their nearest fire assembly point is located. Clear fire action signs in the relevant language need to be visibly located. You may wish to consider the following too:

  • Alerting each resident to fire safety measures
  • Placing fire action signs on the inside of each tenant’s front door
  • Holding regular fire safety meetings.

4. Provide fire fighting and fire detection equipment.

Where necessary the responsible person must:

  • Ensure that the premises are equipped with appropriate fire fighting equipment and with fire detectors.
  • Record, repair and maintain fire safety equipment and any issues within the premises
  • Ensure alarms and any non-automatic fire-fighting equipment is easily accessible, simple to use and indicated by signs.
  • Take measures for fire fighting in the premises and nominate responsible persons to implement those measures.
  • Ensure that the number of such persons, their equipment and their training available to them are adequate, taking into account the size of, and the specific hazards involved in the premises
  • Arrange any necessary contacts with external emergency services, particularly as regards fire-fighting, rescue work and first aid and emergency medical care.

5. Keep all emergency exits clear.

All escape routes must be kept clear at all times and any blockages removed immediately.

Nothing should be allowed to obstruct escape routes.

It is worth giving mention here to mobility scooters as these are often stored or left to charge in areas such as corridors or near staircases. They can form an obstruction to escape routes and access when needed. Numerous serious fires around the country have involved mobility scooters.

Landlords who own/manage blocks of flats

Aside from your legislative obligations and duties as mentioned above, you may wish to consider the following:

  • Fitting smoke detectors to all properties
  • Ensuring that all outside doors can be easily opened at all times from the inside
  • Introducing a non-smoking policy in the property
  • Carry out regular electrical installation safety checks
  • Ensuring all escape routes are kept clear at all times
  • Ensure fire doors are fitted
  • Employ a fire safety professional to carry out all relevant checks and fire risk assessments and reviews.

Private Sector Landlords

From 1st October 2015, private sector landlords will be required to have:

  • At least one smoke alarm installed in every storey of their properties
  • A carbon monoxide alarm in any room containing a solid fuel burning appliance (e.g. wood burning stove, a coal fire).
  • The landlord must ensure that the alarms are in working order at the start of each new tenancy. Also;
  • Gas appliances must be checked by a registered Gas Safe engineer annually
  • Electrical appliances must carry the British Safety Standard sign
  • Any furnishings you provide in your property must be fire resistant and meet safety regulations
  • You must produce safety certificates to your residents, so they can see that gas and electrical appliances have been checked.
  • Under the Housing Act 2004, as a landlord, you are required to ensure there are adequate escape routes in the property.

Houses in multiple occupation (HMO)

A house in multiple occupation (HMO) is defined as a dwelling that is occupied by two or more persons not living as a single household but sharing certain facilities such as WCs, bathrooms and kitchens. Tenancy agreements, use of communal areas, relationship between residents, locks on bedroom doors etc will be used to determine whether a group of residents forms a single household or an HMO.

In addition to the legislative obligations and duties detailed above, the HMO Regulations place duties on the manager of an HMO to keep fabric, fixtures and fittings in good order, ensure that occupiers are protected from injury and supply and maintain gas, electricity and other services.

It should also be noted that The Housing Act 2004 empowers Councils to take action where a range of housing hazards, including the risk of fire, occur. The Council can take control of an HMO if the health, safety and well-being of occupiers or people living in the locality are threatened.

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