Fire Risk Assessment
With the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 having been in force for 10 years, why is there still so poor understanding about Fire Risk Assessment?
The Order*, often referred to as the RRFSO, essentially places 15+ duties on the Responsible Person, as diverse as ensuring General Fire Precautions are in place and that Staff are adequately trained, but by far the most significant is the requirement for a Fire Risk Assessment to be completed.
Since 2006, the local Fire Service no longer issues Fire Certificates; they no longer exist. The Responsible Person, basically the person with responsibility for the ‘Non Domestic’ Premises, has to conduct, or have conducted for them, a Fire Risk Assessment. Or as the Order puts it ‘ a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to which relevant persons are exposed for the purpose of identifying the general fire precautions he needs to take to comply with the requirements and prohibitions imposed on him by or under this Order.’
So, identify all potential significant fire hazards and how to keep people safe. While this can sound simple, and indeed will be for a very small low risk premises, it’s surprising how soon it becomes difficult.
Whilst Fire & Rescue Services have so far been quite reluctant to prosecute individuals or companies for failings, there are signs that their patience is running out, particularly if sleeping accommodation is involved.
There is nothing to stop you completing your own Fire Risk Assessment, so long as you know what you are doing. The Government even publishes a range of booklets to help you, each one is typically around 150 pages long, aimed at specific types of environment, such as Offices and Shops, Educational Premises or Places of Assembly. They can be found here.
But having a set of encyclopaedias doesn’t make you a Brain Surgeon and a Government Booklet doesn’t make you a Fire Risk Assessor.
Mr Ikram Mohammed Qutab, owner of the Red Cow Hotel and the Great Northern in Boston Lincolnshire, pleaded guilty to 7 offences at Magistrates Court in November 2016 and was fined £15,000 with £1,014 costs. Whilst the same week, Landlord Mr Gary Fixter was prosecuted by his local council in Scarborough, Yorkshire and fined £24,000 with £18,000 Costs.
Although these penalties may seem low when compared to Health & Safety cases, depending on the exact nature of the offence there remains the potential for an unlimited fine and up to 2 years imprisonment.
It is important that the Responsible Person, when engaging somebody to undertake a Fire Risk Assessment, uses a competent person.
This was ably illustrated by the case of Mr David Liu, a Mansfield Publican/Hotelier. He engaged with Mr John O’Rourke, a supplier of Fire Extinguishers, for a cheap Fire Risk Assessment. Following a visit from the Fire Service both were prosecuted in 2011, each being sentenced to 8 months imprisonment in addition to their fines; Liu for significant safety failings and O’Rourke for ‘wholly inadequate’ Fire Risk Assessments.
You might think the moral of this story is ‘if you pay peanuts, you’re far more likely to be working with the monkey’, and in part it is.
But it’s also important, as the Responsible Person, to ensure that you get the service you need.
Speak to your Risk Assessor and understand what they are telling you.
Don’t just get the cheapest person you can and then file their report, ‘because you’ve had it done’.
The best report in the world is useless unless you act on it’s recommendations.
*Very similar legislation exists in Scotland and Northern Ireland, with some differences in terminology.