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The UK’s national fire safety organisation, The Fire Protection Association (FPA) outlines how organisations can carry out fire risk assessments and what to look for when appointing an external assessor.

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and similar legislation in Scotland and Northern Ireland, requires that for the vast majority of premises, excluding private dwellings, a fire risk assessment must be carried out. This is to determine the risks to those who may be affected and the measures and precautions required to ensure their safety.

The series of sector specific guidance produced by the government to support the legislation explains that they were developed to help the duty-holder to carry out a fire risk assessment in less complex premises. In more complex premises advice should be sought from a competent person or the assessment undertaken by someone who has comprehensive training or experience in fire risk assessment.

In-house or consultant? In smaller organisations, it may be appropriate for the fire risk assessment to be carried out by the responsible person using the appropriate government guide. It is unlikely that this person will have specialist fire safety knowledge or experience; however, the benefits mean they will know the business, the premises, the activities and the management arrangements. Similarly, in carrying out the assessment they will develop a better understanding and therefore manage the fire risks. A simple training course may be sufficient for an employee to ensure satisfactory completion of a fire risk assessment.

“Within the fire safety and fire risk assessment fields,

competence does not depend on any specific qualification.”

Larger organisations may employ one or more fire safety professionals to act as both the fire risk assessor and ‘competent person’, who is legislatively defined as someone appointed to assist the duty holder in undertaking the preventative and protective measures identified.

Many businesses have multiple competent persons however, they may not have the requisite competence or resources, to carry out the fire risk assessments themselves. Consequently, the responsible person can look to appoint a suitably qualified fire risk assessor or provide existing personnel with additional training to hone their skills.

What to look for Competence and skill are absolutely essential when appointing an external fire risk assessor. The consequences, if the risk assessment turns out to be so lacking that those at work in the premises are left at serious risk in the event of fire, will see not


only will the assessor themselves liable under both criminal and civil law but also potentially the person who appointed the fire risk assessor. Hence the responsible person must without fail ensure the competency of any appointed fire risk assessor.

It is essential the fire risk assessor has a suitable breadth and depth of knowledge; appropriate for the type of premises to be assessed and in line with the Fire Risk Assessment Competency Council’s Competency Criteria for Fire Risk Assessors which is available free of charge from the FPA amongst other sources.

The legislation extends ‘responsibility’ to those who have an obligation for the maintenance or repair of premises. If it is your responsibility to appoint the fire risk assessor or specify a system, materials and/or appoint the installation contractor, it is also your responsibility to ensure they can prove competency for the work undertaken. Failure to do this could result in prosecution.

What makes a competent assessor? It is hard to believe legislation does not specifically require the fire risk assessment to be undertaken by a competent person. This is to avoid an implication that every duty-holder needs to employ the services of a fire safety specialist. Within the fire safety and fire risk assessment fields, competence does not depend on the achievement of any specific qualification. While formal training will contribute, a combination of education, training and experience will result in a strong competence mix.

Many organisations offer fire risk assessment courses. The best approach is to consult well established, reputable fire safety training organisations with accreditations from professional bodies. For example, FPA offers a suite of fire risk assessment and fire safety management courses aimed at those with different levels of experience and knowledge or working in specific environments. The FPA is a Recognised Training Provider by the Institution of Fire Engineers (IFE) and delivers a number of IFE Fire Risk Assessors Register Approved Courses. A similar approach may be taken when appointing contractors or purchasing safety equipment through the use of products or services certified by an independent third-party certification body such as Warrington Certification or BAFE.

Further, more detailed, advice and information can be found in the RISCAuthority / FPA Publication RC66: Recommendations for sourcing fire safety products and services which is available to download free of charge from

Tomorrow’s FM Yearbook 2018/19

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