The importance of selecting a competent fire risk assessor

Health & Safety in Nursries

Did you know that as a business owner, you may be the responsible person for the building or premises your business occupies?

Since the introduction of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 in England and Wales, a duty has been placed on the responsible person to make sure that a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment is carried out. 

For some businesses, the responsible person will be able to do this assessment themselves. But for others, that wouldn’t be a good idea. Fire risk assessments for more complex premises might require specialist knowledge of things such a fire protection measures and means of escape.

And there’s other considerations that need to be made – like the age and construction of the building, its use, occupants, and any substances stored and used which may affect fire safety. This is even more important if there’s members of the public on the premises, or if the premises has sleeping accommodation – higher levels of qualification are recommended. 

The issue is that you can’t delegate your responsibilities as the responsible person under the legislation. This means that if the assessment you have conducted isn’t sufficient, or the person doing it on your behalf doesn’t do a thorough enough job, then you’re still responsible. 

That’s why it’s so important to select a competent fire risk assessor, to help keep your business protected from fire risks and hazards.   

On average, more than 70% of business fires are accidental and could be avoided with proper fire safety measures in place and the right level of management. 

We’re here to help you avoid making mistakes that could jeopardise the safety of your workers, residents and property, and damage your business’ reputation. 

What is a competent person? 

A competent person (different to a responsible person – we’ll get onto this later) is defined as “someone who has sufficient training and experience or knowledge and other qualities that allow them to assist you properly”. Keep this definition in mind when looking for the right person.

Your chosen competent person needs to: 

  • Prove they understand fire safety legislation and the associated guidance documents 
  • Hold relevant education, training, knowledge, and experience in fire safety, including knowledge of the hazards which may affect your premises and business 
  • Be very familiar with fire development, fire risks and hazards, and how occupants should act during a fire 
  • Be able to carry out fire risk assessments to the correct standards 

The difference between a competent person and a responsible person 

If you’re a business owner, employer, or owner of a commercial premises, you’re classed as the responsible person – the person in charge of making sure all fire safety measures are up to scratch.  

Under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, all responsible persons are required to make sure a fire risk assessment is carried out and kept up to date, and that there are necessary safety measures in place to minimise the risk of loss of life from fire. 

A competent person, however, is someone who has a sufficient combination of knowledge, skills, training and experience to carry out these essential fire safety measures for you to keep you safe and legally compliant.  

What are the consequences of not hiring a competent fire risk assessor? 

If you as a responsible person are not competent enough to assess your fire risk sufficiently and choose not to hire a competent person, you’ll be breaching the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 – the cost of which can be extremely high.  

If a fire breaks out in your business and local authorities find that you failed to have your fire safety measures carried out by a competent person, you could be issued with a formal notice that could lead to a prosecution against you. 

What do I need to look for when hiring a fire risk assessor? 

There are some factors that you need to look out for. These are known as the ‘Six Key Pillars of Competence’ and are broken down into:   

  1. Being third-party approved – This means they are officially approved by fire safety bodies and hold recognised and verified qualifications. 
  2. Trustworthy – You have to be certain you can trust your competent fire risk assessor to advise you on the steps you need to take to keep your business, premises and, most importantly, people safe. After all, it’s a huge responsibility to bear, so you need to make sure they can do right by you, your employees, and the law.
  3. Self-aware – This doesn’t just apply to the skills your chosen provider does have, but also to the skills they lack. It’s important they’re aware of their limits and are honest with you.
  4. Good knowledge and application – This might seem like an obvious attribute but it’s important their knowledge has derived from reputable sources – whether it’s from training, research, or other competent persons. With valid knowledge, your competent person will be able to apply their skills to keep your business in a safe and compliant position.
  5. Demonstrable experience – It’s essential that your competent fire risk assessor can demonstrate relevant experience. After all, how can you be sure they’re capable to carry out the job at hand? 
  6. Committed to, and actively engaged in, continued professional development (CPD) – The road to competency is a long one, so it’s key that your competent fire risk assessor can prove they’re proactive in their development. This includes staying up to date with changes in legislation, current trends and issues, and attending relevant events and training.

If you’re worried your competent fire risk assessor doesn’t hold any of the six points listed above, you might want to search for alternatives and refer to these points when narrowing down your search.  

Stay safe with Citation

Head over to our Fire & Electrical services page to discover more about how we can help protect your business from fire – like supporting with fire risk assessments and acting as your competent fire risk assessor.

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