Why do you need a Fire Risk assessment and what is it?

18 August 2020

Let’s start with the what and why

By law, every Multi occupied building, all employers and all premises open to the public, are required to conduct a fire risk assessment. However, not everyone is aware of the requirement or have an understanding of what is needed, for this essential fire safety measure.

We often have enquiries from people who’ve been told “they need a fire risk assessment”, so they’re contacting us to find out more. A fire risk assessment is a good place to start your building’s fire safety plans.

Fire risk assessments shouldn’t be overlooked. Not carrying out an assessment of your premises, can result in buildings being unnecessarily exposed to fire risk and potentially, loss of life.

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What…… is a Fire Risk Assessment?

A fire risk assessment is a visual review of a building, in order to assess its fire risk and offer recommendations, if necessary, to make the building safer.

If you employ less than 5 employees, as with a Health & Safety policy, a written Fire risk assessment it isn’t required, however it is always recommended to record any Fire safety checks that you make in a logbook, so should a fire incident occur, you have proof that the premises has been maintained regularly. All our reports come with a FREE logbook and template Emergency Plan and Fire safety policy

We do, recommend that a fire risk assessment always is in writing, simply as a way to communicate the findings and to ensure, that any recommendations are carried out.

Legal guidelines associated with fire risk assessments

Fire risk assessments do have some specific guidelines.

“As the responsible person you must carry out and regularly review a fire risk assessment of the premises. This will identify what you need to do to prevent fire and keep people safe.” Gov.uk

It would be recommended that the review is carried out:

  • Every 12 months after the original assessment is done
  • Conduct a new assessment, no more than 3 years after the original

If changes occur to:

  • the building’s purpose/use
  • the building structure, such as the layout, has changed – especially in our current circumstances with one-way systems and social distancing
  • the numbers/kind of occupants using or living in the building change If changes occur to:

These can significantly impact on your fire safety plans. Which is why, it is very important that a review of your fire risk assessment, is conducted.

If you employ more than 5 people, then you are legally required for your fire risk assessment, to be documented.

As highlighted earlier, it is recommended that your assessment is always in writing, no matter what size your premises are.

There are other situations where you will be required to have a written fire risk assessment. These include:

  • You have been instructed to do so by the fire brigade (for example, after a visit)
  • If your premises are required to have a licence eg House of multiple Occupancy (HMO)
  • Your insurance may also insist on an annual Fire risk assessment
  • When selling a Flat – can mean the buyers solicitor will require a copy of the Fire risk assessment for the Communal area

The main findings and actions to be taken must be recorded.

Whether or not it is written down, a fire risk assessment has 2 parts that must be generated.

The first part is the actual review, which assesses the premises fire safety against several points. Our reports follow the PAS79 methodology, which lays out the format for a suitable assessment.

The second part, is a list of requirements that should be acted upon, in order for the building to be compliant. Our reports rate each recommendation with a timescale, so it easy for the Responsible person to see and address, the higher risk/most important areas first.

These recommendations must be acted on, as it will ultimately keep your building and the occupants, safe.

Who is responsible to ensure that a Fire Risk Assessment is conducted?

By law, – every Multi-occupied building, premises open to the public or Employer, is required to have an individual who is designated as the “Responsible Person” (RP), for the building’s fire safety.

The role of the designated RP is to ensure that all relevant fire safety checks are carried out. They then need to ensure that any necessary action is taken, in order to prevent fires from occurring and to prevent death or injury, if a fire takes place.

The RP is therefore, the one who needs to ensure that a valid fire risk assessment, is carried out on the premises.

Small business owners are usually the Responsible Person for their premises; however, they may appoint a Fire safety manager.

For Multi occupied buildings Commercial and/or Residential, the Responsible Person is usually the managing agent or landlord, although it can be a Residents’ Association member.

The Responsible Person in these buildings is only responsible for common/shared areas, eg stairwells and corridors. In these circumstances, Residents are responsible for ensuring that their own flats are safe from fire, or Business tenants must ensure they have their own fire risk assessment, for their occupied space.

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How can I obtain a copy of the Fire Risk Assessment for my building?

As a building occupant, you have the right to view the Fire Risk Assessment for the premises.

You should first contact your building’s Responsible Person. If you are unsure who that is, then good place to start would be the business owner, managing agent, landlord or facilities department.

If there is no valid fire risk assessment for your building, you can ask the RP to ensure one is carried out.

Should you feel your concerns are not being treated seriously by the RP, then for help/advice you can contact the local fire and rescue service (General contact details only NOT 999) or your local authority housing department.

What areas does a fire risk assessment look at?

Fire Risk Assessments should be comprehensive and review all of your fire safety equipment, policies, procedures and fire safety checks.

The amount of detail included in an individual report will depend, to a great extent, on the building’s complexity and use. A kiosk or small shop, for example, will have a lot less that needs to be assessed, compared to a care home or school.

Although every fire risk assessment is unique, below are some of the fire prevention and fire risk factors that should be checked by the assessor, as part of the assessment:

  • The building’s construction, layout, and use – does it have any historical fire incidents
  • The nature and number of occupants, including any potentially vulnerable occupants
  • Fire safety checks – are they being carried out and recorded
  • The correct Fire safety equipment is installed, serviced and maintained
  • What sources of ignition does it have, eg Electrical installation/equipment – are they properly maintained.
  • Is the premises and relevant outside areas kept free of combustibles, reducing the risk of fire spread or preventing arson
  • Are Smoking areas designated and properly monitored/maintained to prevent fires starting, caused by smoking
  • Protection against fires that are caused by lightning
  • Is the general housekeeping of a good standard
  • Are key high risk areas being kept clear of any combustible materials
  • The configuration and maintenance of escape routes
  • Storage arrangements for any flammable and dangerous liquids
  • Adequate means are in place to raise the alarm in the event of a fire
  • Fire safety signs are in the proper locations and used correctly
  • Are other Fire safety devices, like sprinklers required
  • Is fire safety training given and how often are evacuation drills conducted. We provide FREE online basic fire safety training.
  • Fire doors are sufficient, suitable and maintained
  • Ensure where the building/occupants rely on passive fire protection, that this has not been compromised.

Who can conduct a Fire Risk Assessment?

According to legal guidelines, a fire risk assessment should be conducted by a “competent” individual. That doesn’t mean that a qualified Fire Risk Assessor must be used.

A competent person should have the skills, knowledge and experience to be able to recognise hazards in your premises and put sensible controls in place. This is to protect the buildings and occupants from fire. Whoever conducts your fire risk assessment, must be comfortable with assessing your building or premises, against all of the different factors.

They also need to be able to do the following:

  • Record all of their significant findings clearly and in detail
  • Develop a fire safety action plan of any changes that are necessary
  • Implement the findings of the action plan.
  • Update the fire risk assessment regularly

A professional fire risk assessor completes a full training programme. They will also be maintaining their knowledge of current legislation and guidance as it changes. Through experience and knowledge, they will understand how to apply the differing requirements, to the variety of buildings and risks associated. All our assessors are experienced, fully qualified, insured and monitored regularly. As a company, we’re Safe contractor accredited, so you get peace of mind that we’re complying with all Heath and Safety requirements.

All our reports come with a summary action plan detailing all the recommendations and a timescale to complete them.


There is penalties for failing to have a fire risk assessment.

If you do not have a fire risk assessment and do not have the proper fire safety precautions in place, the penalty is prosecution. This can result in severe fines or in the cases of extreme negligence, the penalty can be a prison sentence. Links to news stories In some cases it can lead to unforeseen costs as in the case of tenants claiming back their rent

There is also the risk to life. Having a regular Fire risk assessment can help ensure you are taking every step to keep your occupants safe.

Finally, it protects your business or investment or both. The premises will be your place of work, source of income or your investment and a Fire risk assessment will help to prevent a fire destroying this.

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