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Conducting a fire risk assessment

If you're a landlord or you have control of commercial property or the shared areas in a residential property, you must carry out a fire risk assessment.
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A fire risk assessment is a systematic assessment of the fire safety of aspects of a property. It identifies fire safety risks posed by the premises (eg by their construction and materials, access routes, or use). It determines which fire prevention measures are required at the property to mitigate these risks to keep people safe.

If your business has 5 or more employees, you will need to keep a written copy of your fire risk assessment.

Risk assessments help you to identify and take all necessary general fire safety precautions to make sure people are safe in your premises. You must consider, for example, emergency exits, fire-fighting equipment, warning systems, fire safety drills and the removal of any flammable substances.

The assessment must include actions to be taken which will reduce the risk of fire at the property. To be effective, a fire risk assessment must be regularly updated and reviewed. 

A review may be needed if:

  • there is a change of use of the property

  • alterations to the property are carried out

  • there is an increase in the number people regularly present at the property

  • new fire safety laws have come into force

England and Wales

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 applies to business premises (ie workplaces) and ‘common parts’ of residential buildings (ie areas used by more than one private tenant). Common parts of residential buildings can include: 

  • areas for the use of all residents of a block of flats (eg hallways, staircases, landings)

  • shared areas in houses in multiple occupation (HMOs)

  • it does not include the inside of individual, private flats in a block of flats (ie private homes)

The Fire Safety Act 2021, which came into force on 1 October 2021 in Wales and on 16 May 2022 in England, has extended the provisions of the Fire Safety Order to apply to the following parts of multi-occupied residential buildings:

  • the building's structure, external walls and any common parts (eg the external walls including doors or windows in those walls, and anything attached to the exterior of those walls - eg balconies and cladding)

  • all doors between domestic premises and common parts

Any existing fire risk assessments will need to be updated to cover these areas.

Scotland

In Scotland, fire safety duties for most non-domestic premises are set out in the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 and the Fire Safety (Scotland) Regulations 2006.

Non-domestic premises include all:

  • workplaces and commercial premises

  • premises the public have access to

  • some types of houses in multiple occupation

For more information, see the Scottish government's guidance.

You are responsible for fire safety in a business property (or in another non-domestic property, including common areas of multi-occupied residential premises) if you’re:

  • an employer

  • an owner

  • an occupier

  • a landlord

  • anyone else who has control of the premises (eg a building manager, managing agent or risk assessor)

The person responsible for carrying out the fire risk assessment is known as the ‘responsible person’. Where there is more than one responsible person, you all need to work together to meet your responsibilities.

Process

A fire risk assessment should follow 5 broad steps

  • identifying the fire hazards present in your premises (eg cladding made from dangerous materials or faulty fire doors)

  • identifying people at risk (eg people with reduced mobility living in a top floor apartment)

  • managing the risks by evaluating, removing and reducing them

  • recording the findings of your assessments, and preparing emergency plans and training for residents, workers and others

  • reviewing your assessments regularly and making any updates 

Remember that if you employ 5 or more people, you must keep a written record of your risk assessments (ie the 5 steps above). 

What to include in a fire safety risk assessment

The type of property that you are in control of and the part of the UK you are in influence exactly what you must include in your risk assessments and how you must fulfil your fire safety obligations. See, for example, the information below on the Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022. 

As a starting point, you should make sure that your risk assessment covers (where appropriate): 

  • emergency exits and evacuation routes

  • fire detection and warning systems

  • fire fighting equipment

  • any dangerous (eg flammable) substances and procedures for their storage or removal 

  • fire evacuation plans and procedures

  • fire safety training for any workers

  • Which fire safety information is provided to people using the premises 

  • any specific individual needs related to fire safety (eg the needs of elderly people, children, or people with disabilities)

Completing your fire risk assessments competently is important. It enables you to ensure others’ safety and keeps you safe from penalties (see below). You should, therefore, be extra careful to consider everything relevant to your location, type of premises, type of business, and the people using your premises. For more information on fire safety risk assessments and to access information for specific types of premises (eg residential, educational, or shops), read the Government’s guidance

You can also get help completing your risk assessments. You may appoint a ‘competent person’ (eg a professional risk assessor) to help.

New responsibilities under the Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022

The Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 will come into force on 23 January 2023 in England. They will impose additional responsibilities on the responsible person in control of some multi-occupied residential properties. These responsibilities include:

  • sharing information with their local fire and rescue service regarding the design of their building’s external walls and the details of the materials from which they are constructed

  • undertaking an annual inspection of individual flat entrance doors that lead into the building’s common parts

  • undertaking quarterly checks of all fire doors leading into the building’s common parts 

  • undertaking monthly inspections of lifts and reporting the results to their local fire and rescue service if there are any faults

  • sharing evacuation and fire safety instructions with residents of the building

For more information, read the Government’s fact sheet on the upcoming Regulations.

Your local fire and rescue service will visit to check that a fire risk assessment has been carried out competently and that it is suitable for the property. They will also check that you have adequate fire safety measures in place to control the risks identified in your risk assessment.

If they decide your risk assessment and/or practices are not suitable, they can take action and may issue a formal notice suggesting changes to the property to make it safer.

If no fire assessment is carried out, or you are not following fire safety regulations in another way, you may face penalties including fines or prison sentences.

Read the Health and Safety Executive (HSE)’s website and the Government’s guidance on fire safety in the workplace for  practical information and guidance on fire safety compliance in England and Wales. The Healthy Working Lives is a great source of information on fire risk assessment in Scotland.

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