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Last edited 28 Apr 2021
Risk assessment under The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005
In 2006, the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRO) came into force replacing most previous fire-safety legislation. The RRO applies only to England and Wales and is sometimes referred to as the Fire Safety Order (FSO).
The aim of the Order is to “...reduce burdens on business that are caused by the existence of multiple, overlapping general fire safety regimes – and consequently overlap of the responsibilities of enforcing authorities.... consolidate and rationalise much existing fire safety legislation (and) reduce the number of enforcing authorities dealing with general fire safety matters.”
It applies to commercial businesses, shops, offices, care facilities, factories, warehouses, community halls, schools, pubs, restaurants, hostels, hotels, and any person who is responsible for the common areas of multi-family housing units. It does not apply to private dwellings, although residential premises such as blocks of flats and houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) are covered by the Order.
It also applies to self-employed people who use a building for their business, including their home, and it applies to both the individual and their home. Charity organisations are also included; furthermore, if someone is a contractor and has even temporary control over a building or structure, they can be deemed responsible for that structure.
The Order requires that a ‘responsible person’ (the person having control of the building, or a degree of control) takes reasonable steps to reduce the risk from fire and ensures people can safely escape if there is a fire. This includes all people that might visit the premises. (For more information, see Responsible person under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.)
A key pillar of the order is that the responsible person should not only take the appropriate steps to reduce the fire risk but also be able to demonstrate that they have complied with their duties under the Order.
Before taking any action, the responsible person must make a proper assessment of the risks to which the relevant people are exposed to identify which measures they must take to comply with the Order. Assessments will depend on the type and function of the property, the users and the risks associated with that use.
Where five or more people are employed at a location, the Order requires the recording of ‘prescribed information’ so as to be consistent with health and safety legislation. Included in the prescribed information are the ‘significant findings’ of the risk assessment, including the measures taken or to be taken, eg training and maintenance, consultation and coordination and those people who have been identified as being especially at risk.
The threshold of five persons may include those working at other locations. So, for example, an employer with three shops having only two employees at each shop employs six people in total so will have to record a risk assessment for each shop, despite the fact that only two people work there.
The Order emphasises that the existence of dangerous substances at a premise must be included in the risk assessment and all the matters that relate to it eg the amount present, the hazardous properties, circumstances of its use, work processes and storage.
Responsible persons must not employ a young person unless they have undertaken a risk assessment that addresses the risks faced by young people. For ‘young’, the order uses two terms: child (up to 16 years of age) and young person (up to the age of 18)
Other competent persons can record the prescribed information at the request of, and on behalf of, the responsible person. Such cases may be accepted as if they were recorded by the responsible person themselves. However, if an offence is caused as a result of negligence by the appointed contractor, enforcement action will be taken against the responsible person.
The Order relies on risk assessments that are easy to understand. However, in complex buildings it may be necessary to incorporate plans in the risk assessment showing general fire precaution arrangements. The Order does not compel the responsible person to create new plans but for some very complex buildings a risk assessment without additional plans may be deemed insufficient.
The above is a brief summary. Readers are strongly advised to seek further guidance which is available at Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, A short guide to making your premises safe from Fire, HM Government.
NB A reformed building safety regulatory system, Government response to the ‘Building a Safer Future’ consultation, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, April 2020, defines a fire risk assessment as: .'..an organised and methodical look at the premises, the activities carried on there and the likelihood that a fire could start and cause harm to those in and around the premises. Under the Fire Safety Order, the aims of the fire risk assessments are to identify the fire hazards, to reduce the risk of those hazards causing harm to as low as reasonably practicable and to decide what physical fire precautions and management arrangements are necessary to ensure the safety of people in the premises if a fire does start.'
The Explanatory Notes to the Draft Building Safety Bill, published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government on 20 July 2020, suggests that: 'A fire risk assessment is an organised and methodical look at the premises, the activities carried on there and the likelihood that a fire could start and cause harm to those in and around the premises. Under the Fire Safety Order, the aims of the fire risk assessments are to identify the fire hazards, to reduce the risk of those hazards causing harm to as low as reasonably practicable and to decide what physical fire precautions and management arrangements are necessary to ensure the safety of people in the premises if a fire does start.'
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