Who is responsible for fire safety?

Fire is a potential danger that you as an employer need to be aware of. From providing suitable training, arranging regular risk assessments and creating a plan of action in case of a fire, you need to take steps to keep your workers safe.

To work towards the goal of effective fire safety within your company, you will need to take many factors into consideration, starting with knowing who should be accountable for promoting and ensuring fire safety.

Who is responsible for fire safety in the workplace?

In a working or non-domestic environment, the person responsible for fire safety is the person in control of the premises. Although this primarily applies to employers, it can also apply to the building owner, occupier, landlord and anyone else with control of the premises, such as the building manager, officer manager or facilities manager.

Under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, often referred to simply as the FSO, the person in control of fire safety is known as the ‘responsible person’. If more than one individual could be regarded as the responsible person, they will share the responsibility equally, working together to find solutions to potential problems. This is likely to be applicable on shared premises, where the landlord is responsible, as well as the owner of each business.

How to create a fire safety plan

For clarity among your employees on what to do in a fire, it is advisable to put together your own fire safety plan. In this, you should provide a basic map of the building with each floor included, an indication of every possible exit, the desirable method of escaping the building in the event of a fire, and a designated meeting place away from the premises.

You may also wish to include additional information in your fire safety plan, such as:

  • the people in charge of fire safety and calling the emergency services
  • the location of emergency doors and exit routes
  • the location of fire alarms and other detection systems
  • support and consideration for members of staff with mobility, hearing or visual disabilities
  • detailed instructions of the meeting place and procedure.
emergency buzzer
Is fire safety training optional or mandatory for all employees?

Part of being the responsible person in a company is to ensure that every member of staff is given adequate training in fire safety. One of the primary reasons for the FSO was to make employees of companies more fire-aware, but that’s not to say that every employer has stuck by these rules and followed through by sufficiently informing their workforce about fire safety.

Within the rules of the FSO, the responsible person of every company must ensure that fire safety training is provided to employees on the first day of their employment. For existing members of staff, the responsible person should guarantee that fire safety training is provided if the worker has been given more responsibility, if new equipment has been introduced or if a new process has come into action.

If, as an employer, you were unaware of these guidelines, you may be unsure of how to approach this. However, fire safety training in a working environment isn’t as complicated as you might think. In fact, the only instructions for this type of training are that it must:

  • be carried out during working hours
  • cover instructions on suitable actions that the employee would take in the event of fire, with the intention of safeguarding themselves and anyone else in the building
  • be regulated and updated to meet the requirements of new changes to legislation
  • be repeated on a regular basis if needed
  • suit the level of risk based on the environment and potential causes of fire.

What is a fire safety certificate?

Previously, you would be able to confirm whether or not your business met the standards of fire safety through being issued a fire safety certificate. This came under the Fire Precautions Act 1971, but as the FSO changed this in 2005, possessing a fire safety certificate is no longer a valid indication that your working environment is safe.

Instead of this, you’re now required to undergo a thorough fire risk assessment, which should be conducted by a qualified contractor. The responsible person must arrange the fire risk assessment, and if they fail to do this, they will be endangering their workforce and breaking the law.

A fire risk assessment will identify every possible fire hazard, as well as ways to reduce or completely remove them. After it has been carried out, a written report from the assessment should be kept, regularly reviewed and updated based on any changes. This report is often used as part of the fire safety training that employees must have.

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Fire safety roles and responsibilities in the workplace

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