How to Ensure Your Fire Risk Assessor is 'Competent'

 Recent prosecutions of Fire Risk Assessors as well as the Duty Holder proves that now, more than ever, there are consequences for failing to comply with safety laws.

In the United Kingdom, fire safety legislation, in general, applies to all non-domestic premises. It includes all workplaces and commercial premises, including those that are managed by the self-employed and voluntary organisations as well as all premises that the public has access to in Wales and England, and the common areas of residential buildings like houses and flats that have multiple occupancy.

As an employer, you have a duty to conduct a fire risk assessment under the appropriate fire safety legislation. Similarly, if you occupy or have control over a non-domestic premise or you own it and it is empty, then most likely you have this same duty.

We are providing this guide to help those who have this responsibility. In this document, we will be referring to them as ‘responsible person.’ It is intended to help those who have decided to conduct a fire risk assessment to keep their premises in compliance with the fire safety legislation that is applicable in their country:

 

 

  • In England and Wales: Regulatory Reform (2005 Fire Safety Order).
  • In Northern Ireland: 2010 Fire Safety Regulations and Fire and Rescue Services (Order 2006)
  • In Scotland: Fire Safety Scotland Regulations (2006) and Fire Scotland Act (2005)

 

What a fire risk assessment does is identify potential hazards and the actions that need to be taken in order to keep people on the premises safe. It must be kept current and reviewed regularly, especially when something changes that might affect fire safety or there is any other reason why it might no longer be valid for a building, such as after a fire, a change in contents, or change in occupancy.

 

 

FIRE RISK ASSESSOR PROSECUTED

South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service (SYFRS) reported on Mr Thompson’s prosecution, which was undertaken in relation to an FRA undertaken at the Hexagon student accommodation block in Sheffield. Mr Thompson, of Toftwood Health & Safety Solutions, was prosecuted after Ashgate Property Developments Ltd had been fined £36,000 for ‘three separate offences relating to the same premises’ at an earlier hearing.

 

 

The responsible person is always responsible for ensuring that the assessment is adequate no matter who conducts the fire risk assessment. If you employ a specialist to conduct a fire risk assessment for you, although you are not required to be a fire safety expert, you should do reasonable checks of your own to ensure the specialist is competent to do the job correctly.

The following are some basic precautions and step that you can take in order to help you verify the suitability and competence of a potential fire risk assessor:

  • Make sure that the fire risk assessor who will be providing the service is qualified to do so. It is recommended that you check that the individual providing the service has certification from, or independent registration with, a certification or professional body that indicates they have met the Fire Risk Assessment Competency Council’s established competency criteria. See the following list.)
  • Check to ensure they have experience conducting fire risk assessments for your type of premises or business.
  • Request references from past clients with your type of premises. Ask the clients if any problems were identified later and if they were satisfied with the assessor’s work.

Also, do the following:

  • Make sure that the scope of the work that you want to have done is agreed to in writing.
  • Make sure that the assessor is provided with all relevant information and has access to all parts of your premises.
  • Obtain other quotes – be sure the same scope is covered, so that you can compare like services.
  • Ask the assessor for proof of having sufficient public liability, professional indemnity insurance, and that they are impartial and that, if necessary, there will be a complaints procedure that you have access to.
  • Make sure to have adequate records of all of the steps that you took when choosing the fire risk assessor to hire.

It is very important that the individual who conducts your fire risk assessment is reputable and competent. Individuals can demonstrate their competence in two main ways:

  • Certification from a UKAS accredited Certification Body for the activity.
  • Professional Body Registration schemes.

It is also very important that the fire risk assessor’s employer or company has adequate management systems instituted, even for self-employed assessors. A company’s competence to provide fire risk assessments may be demonstrated through the company having third-party certifications from a Certification Body that is UKAS accredited.

It is recommended by the Fire Risk Assessment Competency Council that fire risk assessment companies be used, which includes for sole traders, that are third-party certified for appropriate schemes that are operated by UKAS accredited Certification Bodies for certificating these schemes.

Responsible persons are not required to be expert in certification schemes and registration. The following information can provide you with a better understanding of the schemes and the way they are run.

  • A ‘scheme’ identifies which assessment methods will be used and what needs to be assessed. There are several schemes that relate to fire risk assessment.
  • A ‘company’ scheme is managed by a certification body that assesses the competence of a company’s management systems and personnel.
  • A ‘person’ certification scheme is managed by a certification body. It concerned with the individual’s competence and not the company’s.
  • A ‘professional body’ scheme is managed by a professional body. It is concerned with the individual’s competency and not the company’s.

A registry is maintained by all schemes, which lists companies or individuals that have been assessed and that meet that scheme’s requirements.

Certification Bodies: Assess the company or individual fire risk assessor against the scheme’s requirements.

The United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) accredits third-party Certification Bodies for the work that they conduct. The Government recognises the UKAS as a national accreditation body for that purpose. Certification Bodies are accredited by the UKAS against internationally agreed upon standards, in order to confirm that they are correctly assessing against ‘scheme’ requirements.

 

The Penalties for an Insufficient Fire Risk Assessment

In this case, Mr Thompson pleaded guilty to ‘failing to provide a suitable and sufficient’ FRA under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, and he was fined £750 as well as being ordered to pay £1,000 in costs in addition to a £170 surcharge. The judge in the case summarised by noting that competence ‘is knowing when you yourself aren’t able to do something – and that risk assessors should recognise the limits of their experience and expertise’..

Contact an expert member of our team now for your Free, no obligation, quote.

 

Office Tel: 01323 325 272 

Email: info@fsc1.co.uk