What is the Fire Safety Order?
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 was the biggest change to fire safety law in 35 years. Coming into force in October 2006, it replaced the Fire Precautions (Workplace) Regulations 1997 (as amended), the Fire Precautions Act 1971 and numerous local Acts. It was introduced to consolidate various pieces of legislation and to encourage a risk-based approach to fire safety management. The most significant change is that fire certificates are no longer issued or recognised as legal documents – fire risk assessments are now the cornerstone of fire safety management.
What is a responsible person?
The Fire Safety Order places the responsibility for fire safety management with a designated responsible person. The responsible person needs to make sure their properties are adequately protected from the risks of fire – not the fire authorities. This person may be the owner, the occupier, an employer or the managing agent acting on behalf of the owner.
What is the role of the responsible person?
The responsible person needs to take certain fire precautions to ensure the safety of all relevant persons. Relevant persons can be tenants, employees and any other people who may be affected by a fire in the building (e.g. general public, visitors or contractors). The responsible person’s main duty is to ensure a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment is carried out, assessing the risk to which the relevant persons may be exposed. Other responsibilities include:
- Ensuring a fire risk assessment is carried out by a competent person.
- Undertaking any remedial actions identified in the significant findings of the fire risk assessment.
- Training staff to react to emergency situations within the specific premises.
- Recording all maintenance and testing of fire precautions.
- Recording all training carried out.
- Ensuring the risk assessment is regularly reviewed by a competent person.
Who is a competent person?
The responsible person must appoint a competent person to carry out fire risk assessments and any subsequent fire safety requirements. The law defines competency as "someone with the necessary training, experience, knowledge and other qualities to carry out the task, yet who is aware of the limitations of their knowledge and abilities". Employers who are entrusting tasks to employees are required to take their capabilities into account, as outlined in The Fire Safety (Employees' Capabilities) (England) Regulations 2010.
What is a fire risk assessment?
A fire risk assessment is a thorough survey of the premises that considers all the fire risks that may affect the premises and the people connected with it. If there are 5 or more people employed within the building, if the premises are licensed, or an alterations notice is in force, the fire risk assessment must be a written report. This report will identify all the hazards and provide detailed significant findings.
What are significant findings?
These are simply the recommendations arising from the fire risk assessment. Significant findings outline additional control measures that are required to mitigate the risks identified. Responsible persons need to ensure that any remedial actions emerging from the significant findings are completed. Fire risk assessments should prioritise significant findings and provide recommended timescales within which to carry these out.
Why do I need to review my fire risk assessment?
Once completed, the fire risk assessment is considered to be a live document that must be regularly reviewed. Additional reviews should be carried out when there are process changes in how the building is used, the structure of the building or changes to the specific needs of people who are in or around the building.
Where does the legislation apply?
The Fire Safety Order applies to all non-domestic premises in England and Wales, including the common parts of blocks of flats and houses in multiple occupation (HMOs). The Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 and the Fire Safety Regulations (NI) 2010 make similar requirements in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Other types of property covered include:
- Shops and offices
- Hotels and other sleeping accommodation
- Residential care premises
- Educational premises
- Small and medium places of assembly
- Large places of assembly
- Theatres and cinemas
- Outdoor events
- Healthcare premises
- Transport premises and facilities
- Factories and warehouses
- Animal premises and stables
The government has developed a fire safety guide for each premises type. Whilst they do not set prescriptive standards, they provide recommendations to aid compliance. They can be found on the Communities & Local Government website, or by clicking here.