Fire Risk Assessment – know the facts

Business owners are still unsure if they are required by law, to have completed a Fire Risk Assessment. Find out more here.

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Business owners are still unsure if they are required by law, to have completed a Fire Risk Assessment.

Health and Safety at work or a public place can be a complicated matter, however understanding if your business needs a Fire Risk Assessment is quite simple.

In April 2016 the limit for financial fines was removed and now exceed £200,000 and up to 2 years imprisonment. Typical minor penalties of infringement can easily reach £5,000 and not to mention the bad press and employee or customer loyalty; so this article could save you a lot of time, stress and money.

What type of business needs to complete a Fire Risk Assessment?

FACT… Let’s get straight to the point, it does not matter if you are a café, factory, car showroom, church, hair salon, office property owner or any other type of business property owner or tenant; you are required by ‘The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Act 2005’ to have completed a Fire Risk Assessment.

In this article, we will tackle this and other questions to help you determine and minimise your level of risk, exposure to penalty fines and solutions that are available to you.

 

What size of business needs to complete a Fire Risk Assessment?

By law, every business irrelevant of type or size must carry out a Fire Risk Assessment. It’s easy to keep relating to the law, but as a business owner, welcoming employees and the public into your property creates risk. For peace of mind and as a morale responsibility to others, it is best practice to understand how to deal with a fire evacuation procedure. This will also reduce the risk of injury or death and subsequent investigation and penalties.

If you employ 5 or more people there is a mandatory and legal requirement, the information from the fire risk assessment is recorded. It’s worth noting that doesn’t mean if there are more 5 or more people in the building at any one time. It literally means if you employ 5 or more people, irrelevant if they are off-site or on-site workers, you must legally record the assessment information. See below for information about off-site workers.

 

What if I only have 4 or less employees?

Again, you are required by law to have completed a fire risk assessment, only this time you do not have to show a recording. This does however create new problems and increases the risk of injury, death, investigations and penalties.

 

What if I rent a property, is it the Landlords responsibility?

Many businesses owners are tenants within their buildings, which often creates confusion over who is responsible. Whilst the landlord is responsible for recording the fire risk assessment of the building, as a business owner, you have a duty of care to your employees and guests. By law you are required to have completed a fire risk assessment.

 

What about single occupancy vs multiple occupancy tenants?

Let’s cover 2 scenarios

Scenario 1 – The business property you rent is a single unit with its own private access on an industrial estate, business park or road.
In this case, you may think the responsibility would lie with the Landlord, however in many cases, we find within a lease agreement the Landlord will have passed the responsibility onto the tenant. In any case the same rules apply; as a business owner, you are required to have completed a fire risk assessment, irrelevant of occupancy status or number of employees.

Scenario 2 – The business property is a rented office / property within a multiple managed office site.
In this case, the Landlord has a responsibility to complete a fire risk assessment, highlighted by the fact there are communal areas within the building. A communal area is classed as a shared space so includes corridors and stair cases, not just the obvious shared kitchen, toilets and break out areas. That does not mean however the responsibility stops there. Again as a business owner, you have a legal responsibility to have completed a fire risk assessment irrelevant of occupancy status or number of employees.

 

What if I employ 5 or more people, but they work off-site and never attend our office?

Great question and this is where it can become clouded, however you still have a responsibility to your employees. If your staff work off-site, you need to assess the risk within the properties or environment they are attending. You can do this by liaising with the property owner or local authority (in the instance of schools etc.) and this would be recorded as a consideration in your fire risk assessment, but completed in an additional separate report.

 

Who knows if we haven’t completed a fire risk assessment?

You may get an unannounced, spot check visit from the Fire service. They are the enforcing authority for The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order, to see if you have completed an assessment and comply with the legislation. Alternatively, your insurance company make a check to ensure you are compliant with the terms of your insurance policy. This is particularly common if they consider your business profile to be of suitably high risk to them.
If an incident does occur, you will get an investigative visit from your local fire authority for compliance checks. At this point, they may issue alterations, enforcement and prohibition notices. In extreme cases, where people have been put at risk of serious injury or death, they may immediately start prosecution proceedings.
If an incident occurs that causes serious injury or death, the HSE (Health and Safety Executive) will also be involved and will need to see your fire risk assessment. If there is a fire, the first thing The Fire Service, the HSE and Insurance company will want to see is your Fire Risk Assessment.

Can we download a fire risk assessment online or write and complete your own?

By law (Article 9 of ‘The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Act 2005’), the fire risk assessment must be completed by a responsible person. You have a duty of care to your employees or members of public and property, to ensure a suitable assessment has been completed so for this reason alone, we would recommend this is completed by a trained and qualified assessor. We would recommend against downloading a cheap £99 tick box ‘one size fits all’ assessment template, as the responsibility lies with a competent person, not a form.
The fire risk assessment should be specific to your business, your premises and the occupancy of your building i.e. staff, customers and members of the public. Would you really expect a generic form to adequately protect your livelihood and the safety of you and your staff?
If considering completing your own fire risk assessment, you should also consider issues of familiarity. This means if you attend the same property regularly, human nature means you are likely to become complacent, miss the obvious hazards, create excuses or become dismissive of minimal risk factors. Instructing an independent and qualified fire risk assessor provides a fresh set of eyes, suitable and informative advice and removes the huge pressure of responsibility on you.

 

How frequently should I complete a fire risk assessment?

You are required to review your assessment
• If you have reason to believe it is no longer valid.
• Following a fire or ‘near miss’.
• Following a ‘material Change’, such as altering internal layouts, removing a fire exit or even a change in staff.
It is recommended you review your fire risk assessment every 12 months as a minimum.

 

Will my local fire authority complete a fire risk assessment?

No, many local authorities do not have the time or resource to complete these and they will advise you to contact an appropriate fire risk assessor.

 

How much does a fire risk assessment cost?

This is dependent on the size of risk, such as the building size, number of occupants and potential hazards within an area. Typically an assessment less than £299 would indicate a generic template assessment that is not specific to your business circumstances and therefore a waste of time and money.

 

Is it true I could go to prison?

Yes. The ‘The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Act 2005’ is very clear on penalties. Dependant of the severity of the incident and non-compliance, you can be issued with a series of penalty fines, escalating to serving a prison sentence. Even without serving a prison sentence if found guilty, as a Director or business owner, you would find yourself with a criminal record.

Does anyone in your business want the responsibility?
Contact us today on 0330 056 3551 for advise and help with your Fire Risk Assessment and prevention.

About The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Act 2005
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Act 2005 can be viewed at http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2005/1541/contents/made

About Alert Fire and Security
Alert Fire and Security Ltd are a NSI Gold and BAFE certified company that install quality systems. They offer a full range of services including monitored & maintained intruder alarm systems, monitored & maintained fire alarm systems, HD CCTV, biometric access control, fire risk assessment, fire marshal training, fire extinguisher servicing and security gated and barrier solutions.

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