Do I have to carry out a fire risk assessment?

There is a good chance that you will have to carry out a fire risk assessment under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (FSO) if you are an employer/landlord or a person with a level of control of a premises.

Premises to which the law does not apply are:

(a)   Domestic premises (however, they do apply to HMOs and the common areas in blocks of residential flats);

(b)   An offshore installation within the meaning of Regulation 3 of the Offshore Installation and Pipeline Works (Management and Administration) Regulations 1995(1);

(c)   A ship, in respect of the normal ship-board activities of a ship’s crew which are carried out solely by the crew under the direction of the master;

(d)   Fields, woods or other land forming part of an agricultural or forestry undertaking but which is not inside a building and is situated away from the undertaking’s main buildings;

(e)   An aircraft, locomotive or rolling stock, trailer or semi-trailer used as a means of transport or a vehicle for which a licence is in force under the Vehicle Excise and Registration Act 1994(2) or a vehicle exempted from duty under that Act;

(f)    A mine within the meaning of Section 180 of the Mines and Quarries Act 1954(3), other than any building on the surface at a mine;

(g)   A borehole site to which the Borehole Sites and Operations Regulations 1995(4) apply.

Do I have to have a written fire risk assessment?

You must carry out a fire risk assessment on your premises.  However you are only required to have a written fire risk assessment if you are an  employer who employs 5 or more persons within your company (not necessarily all in the same building); if you have been served with an Alterations Notice on the premises by the local Fire and Rescue Services; or if you have a License Under Enactment on the premises (such as a license to serve alcohol, provide health and beauty services, a licensed HMO, etc.).

However, fire risk assessments are recommended as this shows show diligence towards fire safety on your premises should you receive a visit from the local Fire and Rescue Service.

Do I have to employ an external company to do my risk assessment?

No, you are perfectly entitled to carry out your own fire risk assessment utilising the government guidance documents as long as it is conducted by a competent person as defined by law.  However, if your fire risk assessment is audited by the enforcing authority and found not to be suitable and sufficient, you would be required to demonstrate why you believed that person was legally competent to carry out the assessment.  The key to remember is that the responsibility for compliance with the legislation remains with you.

If you choose to appoint an external body to carry out your fire risk assessment, then you are required to ensure they are competent to perform the assessment which can be difficult to achieve.  One of the easier options to is to utilise a fire risk assessor who is accredited by a third party to carry out fire risk assessments; e.g. the Institute of Fire Engineers or the Institute of Fire Safety Management both have registers of their assessors that you can access.  It is important that any accreditation stated by a company is relevant to carrying out fire risk assessments, so beware its not for the provision of other fire safety services.

Freya Comprehensive Fire Solutions are happy to provide the accreditation details for the assessor they will send you.

I’m carrying out alterations to my home and my design doesn’t meet the Building Regulations.  Is there anything I can do?

Yes.  If the design is such that it does not apply strictly to the relevant approved documents, a fire-engineered solution can be a suitable approach to demonstrate that the design meets the aims of the building regulations.  This is achieved through the use of enhanced life safety systems and computer modelling looking at the potential for a fire to develop, and the speed it would develop, compared to the time required for everyone to safely escape.

I’ve moved into an existing building and I’ve been asked to have the fire compartmentation lines inspected.  How do I identify them?

If you do not have plans identifying the fire compartmentation lines then it is advisable to have compartmentation lines for your premises determined by a qualified and experienced fire engineer.  The engineer will review a set of the plans for your building and will determine the best approach to fire compartmentation based on the use of the premises and current guidance, as well as guidance that would have been in place should the date of construction be available.  Our Freya engineers are experienced in the identification and inspection of fire compartmentation lines.

Do I need to train all my employees in fire safety or just a selection of fire wardens?

You are required by law to ensure that all your employees receive a level of fire awareness training.  This should focus on the elements required to start and develop a fire, fire safety within the premises, the means of warning and the escape routes, the emergency evacuation plan, the employers approach to fire safety – to name but a few areas.

I have a mobility-impaired employee.  Can I put them in a refuge and await for the Fire and Rescue Service to evacuate them from the building?

No, you are responsible for ensuring their safe evacuation from the premises to a place of safety.  This is stated in the Building Regulations under clause 4.2 of the Approved Document B1:

Refuges are relatively safe waiting areas for short periods. They are not areas where disabled persons should be left alone indefinitely until rescued by the Fire and Rescue Services or until the fire is extinguished.

The evacuation of disabled and mobility-impaired employees or other relevant persons should be considered and evacuation plans designed for them.  This may be by way of carrying out a Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan (PEEP).  It should be remembered that not all mobility-impaired persons are wheelchair users, and consideration should be given to others who may require assistance in evacuating such as the elderly, heavily pregnant women and the temporary impaired (e.g. a broken ankle requiring a person to use crutches).