Who is responsible for completing a fire risk assessment?

A fire risk assessment (FRA) is a legal requirement for any business that has more than 5 employees. Carrying out a fire risk assessment falls under the duties and responsibilities of the “responsible person” (as per the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005). Not sure if that is you? Read along to find out exactly who is responsible for completing a fire risk assessment at work.  

What’s a fire risk assessment and why is it important?

Before we dive into the who, let’s talk about the what and the why first. Simply put, the fire risk assessment is a process of identifying potential fire safety hazards, analysing the likelihood and severity of potential harm and proposing control measures to prevent fire incidents from happening.

Generally, there are five steps to any fire risk assessment:

  • Find any potential fire safety hazards
  • Find out who could get harmed as a result of those hazards 
  • Assess, evaluate and manage those risks by either removing them completely or putting control measures in place to minimise the risk to an acceptable level 
  • Keep a record of your findings, devise and communicate a fire emergency evacuation plan (FEEP), and ensure the necessary fire safety training for employees is provided
  • Review your fire risk assessment regularly to ensure it’s effective and up to date 

The fire risk assessment is a crucial element of occupational health and safety, as well as the fire safety procedures of any workplace. Want to know more? Check out our fire risk assessment guide for details.

Who is the “responsible person”?

As we mentioned a bit earlier, according to the law in the UK, the responsible person has to ensure a fire risk assessment has been completed. This can be anyone in a position of authority over the premises or a part of the premises, including but not limited to:

  • Employers
  • Building Managers
  • Fire Safety Equipment Managers
  • Building Owners
  • Building Occupiers 

If you share the premises with another occupier, let’s say in a shared office building, each occupier is responsible for carrying out the fire risk assessment (FRA) for their part of the premises. 

Who can complete a fire risk assessment at work?

If you are the responsible party, there are two ways you can approach the fire risk assessment: either do it yourself or hire a professional fire safety assessor to do it for you. There are pros and cons to both options but the main thing you have to keep in mind is that the fire risk assessment report is proof that you have done what’s required of you to ensure regulatory compliance.

The documentation associated with your fire risk assessment can be requested by the relevant authorities at any time. In case of a fire incident at work, the fire risk assessment report will be examined to decide whether the fire could have been prevented, so completing it correctly and to the Government’s required standards can decide whether you are found liable for the incident or not. 

Non-compliance with the fire safety requirements can result in jail time and/or substantial fines. 

Doing The Fire Risk Assessment Yourself 

If you feel confident enough to do the fire risk assessment by yourself, you will have to ensure that you have covered all the tasks outlined in the fire risk assessment template offered by the Government. 

To give you an idea of what the fire risk assessment entails, you will be expected to pinpoint where and how a fire could be ignited and what fuels would burn, as well as the specific people who could be at risk (employees, visitors, members of the public). 

Based on your findings, you will have to decide what colour fire extinguishers you need and where they should be placed to most effectively protect your staff from the uncovered fire hazards. You will also have to propose and take adequate risk management actions, such as identifying suitable escape routes, installing the right fire alarm system, including smoke detectors and/or heat detectors based on the type of fire that could occur.  

All other elements of your fire safety equipment, such as fire exits, emergency signs, emergency lighting and manual call points will also have to be considered to determine whether you have implemented sufficient fire safety measures. 

Hiring A Professional To Do The Fire Risk Assessment 

If you don’t feel confident that you can carry out a fire risk assessment that is “suitable and sufficient” as described by the law, you can choose to enlist a professional fire risk assessor to do it for you. The one obvious downside is that you have to pay an engineer to come in and do the assessment. However, getting an expert involved ensures that you can prove your compliance with the fire safety legislation in the UK. 

If you go down the professional fire risk assessment route, you need to find a suitable accessor, book a date and time for them to come in and complete the assessment. Depending on how big the building is, how many people have access to it and whether you store any flammable materials on the premises, the risk assessment may take longer but your chosen fire safety specialist should be able to advise you on that when you speak to them to get a quote. 

Once the assessment has been carried out, the assessor should provide you with a detailed report of their findings, as well as a list of the actions you should take in order to effectively address any fire hazards that have been identified (if any). Keep this document at least until your next fire risk assessment as proof that you have done it. 

How often do you need to review your fire risk assessment?

Unfortunately, there is no time specified in the fire safety law. However, the generally accepted norm is to ensure a fire risk assessment is done at least once a year. 

If your business undergoes any major changes before the annual assessment is due, you should schedule a review of the fire risk assessment to make sure it still is valid and reliable in the current situation. This could apply in special circumstances such as a change of premises, substantial building works, significant changes to the layout of the workplace or any work-related changes, such as hiring a large number of new employees, moving machinery or bringing in hazardous materials as part of the work process. 

In case of a fire incident at work, you will have to conduct a new fire risk assessment, regardless of when your last assessment took place. 

Now that you know who is responsible for the completion of a fire risk assessment and how to approach it, feel free to explore our fire safety resources even further and learn what are the fire marshal’s duties, as well as what are the 5 most common causes of fire in the workplace in the UK.