Responsibility for fire safety

The Fire Safety Order

If you own, manage or operate a business, charity or other organisation you must comply with fire safety legislation called the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety Order) 2005 (FSO).

The FSO applies to nearly all types of premises excluding:

  • Single domestic premises
  • Offshore installations, ships (in respect of normal ship-board activities)
  • Fields, woods or other land forming part of an agricultural undertaking situated away from the main building
  • Aircraft, locomotive or rolling stock, trailer or semi-trailer used as a means of transport
  • Mines
  • Borehole sites

In the cases above, exemption from the FSO is because there is superior legislation or regulation that applies, or application would be impractical.

New: Building Safety Act 2022

The Building Safety Bill received Royal Assent in April 2022 and became the Building Safety Act 2022. The new legislation has the effect of amending the Fire Safety Order to:

  • require that all Responsible Persons must record their completed fire risk assessment, and in full (where previously only specific information was required to be recorded)
  • require that all Responsible Persons must record the identity of the individual (their name), and/or if applicable, their organisation (name) engaged by them to undertake/review any or all of the fire risk assessment
  • require that all Responsible Persons must record their fire safety arrangements (demonstrate how fire safety is managed in your premises)
  • require that all Responsible Persons must record (and as necessary update) their contact information, including a UK based address, and share this with other Responsible Persons and residents of multi-occupied residential premises where applicable
  • require that all Responsible Persons must take reasonably practicable steps to ascertain the existence of other Responsible Persons who share or have duties in respect of the same premises, and of Accountable Persons (which are a new legal entity made under the Building Safety Act in the case of higher-risk residential buildings) in relation to the premises - they must then identify themselves to said persons
  • require that departing Responsible Persons must share all 'relevant fire safety information' with incoming Responsible Persons
  • require Responsible Persons of a building containing two or more sets of domestic premises to provide residents with relevant fire safety information in a format that is easily understood by the residents
  • increase the level of fines for some offences
  • strengthen the status of statutory guidance issued under Article 50 of the Fire Safety Order

There is also a legislative requirement that, where the Responsible Person appoints a person to make or review the fire risk assessment, they must be competent. This legislative requirement will be brought into force at a later date, and we will provide relevant guidance in that regard ahead of the commencement date.

In the meantime, if you do appoint a fire risk assessor our recommendation is that you ensure they are competent to do so, in terms of having sufficient training and experience or knowledge and other qualities. It remains the case that the Responsible Person has a duty to make sure that a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment is completed.

Further information on fire safety responsibilities.

Who has responsibility for Fire Safety?

The person who has the overall duty for complying with the FSO is known as the Responsible Person (RP). In the workplace this would mean the employer. If not a workplace, the RP could be the owner of the premises, for example the landlord, or the person who has control of the premises such as a management company.

It's important to note that:

  • Every person who has, to any extent, control of the premises

and

  • Any person who has a contract or obligation of any extent in relation to the maintenance, repair or safety of a premises ...

... is also treated as the RP so far as matters within their control, or to the extent that their contract or obligation extends.

An example of this is to think of a shop that is part of a retail chain. The business (employer) is the overall RP, however the branch manager has control of the shop so is also treated as the RP.

Similarly, the contractors that service the shops fire alarm have an obligation in relation to the safety of the shop, and therefore could also be considered the RP.

What are the responsibilities for Fire Safety?

As the Responsible Person you must:

  • Take general fire precautions to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the safety of employees and anyone who may be legally on or within the vicinity of the premises
  • Carry out a Fire Risk Assessment (FRA) to identify fire hazards, those at risk, and the general fire precautions required
  • Tell staff or their representatives about the risks you've identified
  • Put in place and maintain appropriate fire safety measures as identified by your FRA
  • Put a plan in place on what to do in the event of a fire and make people aware of it
  • Provide staff with information, fire safety instruction and training
  • Review your FRA regularly, particularly if you believe there have been significant changes made, or it is no longer valid.

More information can be found on the Fire safety for businesses and organisations webpage.

Business Fire Safety awareness tool

This interactive tool has been developed to help small business owners understand their legal duties for fire safety in the workplace.

Take part in an interactive walkthrough to understand your legal duties for fire safety in the workplace.

Business Fire Safety awareness tool (on the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) website)

This Fire Safety Awareness Tool was developed in collaboration between NFCC, Eyecademy and 925 Studios at Northampton University, with funding provided by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Regulators Pioneer Fund.


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