Explaining The Responsible Person

Many business owners have a vague idea they might be responsible if there is a fire at their business. They know they might get in trouble with the law if they haven’t got the right things in place. But most don’t really know what a responsible person means and the obligations it places on them.

The following video from the Fire Industry Association explains your duties. It outlines the steps you need to take to meet your legal obligations.

We all know how terrifying and devastation a fire can be, it destroys lives and businesses. If you are an employer with any degree of control over premises you are responsible for the safety of the people and the property. Legally you have duties and responsibilities to do all you can to prevent fire and minimise the risks. 

Many businesses express a view that perhaps this does not apply to them, claiming they are not fire safety experts.  This highlights the need for training. 

Fire safety laws cover almost every commercial premises you can think of, big or small. The FIA says “If you think you don’t have to take responsibility tell it to the judge!”

As the responsible person you need to know what that term means. If you are an employer of have control over the activities that take place then you have responsibilities under fire safety legislation. You are described, in English law, as being the “responsible person”. The responsible person may be prosecuted if they fail to comply with the law.  To ensure your people and premises are as safe as they can be there are actions you can take. 

This can sound complicated but it can be broken down into a simple understanding and steps:

You must carry out a fire risk assessment of the premises. It identifies hazards and risks and provides solutions. It will look at the fire precautions you have in place and help you make a judgement whether they are adequate or if there needs to be changes.

Anybody can carry out an assessment but most people don’t know where to start. The FIA say:

“You don’t have to do it yourself, you can use a professional fire risk assessor. They understand potential fire safety hazards and understand how to eliminate or minimise the risks. They will make independent and unbiased recommendations about what, if any action, needs to be taken. 

After the fire risk assessment has been done, you’re likely to ask what is next. The assessor will product a plan of what action needs to be taken; also what is required to detect a fire, warn people and allow them to escape quickly and safely.

Some businesses will undoubtedly surmise that they have already got some of the above in place.  The FIA advice is to ask “Is is appropriate for you?”. They list the questions that need to be answered:

Do you have the right equipment?

Is it in the right locations?

Is it maintained and checked regularly?

When was the last time the alarm equipment or fire fighting equipment was serviced?

Is a maintenance record kept?

The fire risk assessment will tell you if there is anything you need to do. The FIA recommends using a third party endorsed supplier of fire equipment and services. 

The term “third party certificated” is simple to understand. It is vital that the fire equipment and services used by any business are of good quality and maintained to a high standard. It is important that the suppliers used also put quality first. Businesses need to be confident that suppliers are competent to deliver, commission and install. Suppliers must be trained, qualified and assessed to be competent at this. Third party certification guarantees this. 

Third party certification means they have been independently assessed and the quality of their work has been verified as being to a suitable standard. This also applies to the fire risk assessor. The FIA states “It’s all about using quality suppliers.”

The main concern voiced by businesses is that there is a cost to all of this. The FIA offer the following advice in their video:

“The cost could be even higher if you don’t use a supplier who has been independently assessed. You have a duty to staff and visitors. Also your insurance company will investigate a claim. If you cannot prove that you have used competent product and service providers you may have difficulty getting a full insurance payment.” 

They add advice on knowing who is third party certificated:

“The Fire Industry Association is the largest Fire Protection Association in the UK. Members are required to have third party certification. Use a member of the FIA and you know you are dealing with a high quality supplier”

To find out more about The services Wirral Fire protection offer, navigate the site using the links below:

If you have specific questions or would like more advice about being the responsible person drop a line to Mike Pearson using the form here. 

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