Who is The Responsible Person for A Premises




Fire safety is imperative to protect buildings and their occupants from danger. Here, the Fire Industry Association outlines the duty of a Responsible Person for a premises

Legal Requirements in fire safety

The Building Control Regulations provide for a system of Fire Safety Certificates to demonstrate that building designs comply with fire safety requirements. Persons developing a new building must therefore obtain a Fire Safety Certificate from the fire services staff attached to their local authority.

The Fire Services Act 1981 and 2003.

To comply with the law, a responsible person should conduct a comprehensive risk assessment to identify

  • Ignition sources
  • Suitable means of detecting and raising the alarm in the event of a fire
  • Adequate emergency escape routes and exits
  • Appropriate type and numbers of fire extinguishers
  • Correct type and sufficient numbers of fire signs and notices
  • Provision for the correct maintenance of fire equipment
  • Suitable provision for the protection of Fire Service personnel
  • Ensure the occupants receive the appropriate instruction/training in actions to be taken in the event of a fire using evacuation drills
  • The effect a fire could have on neighbours.

Who is the responsible person in fire safety law

The duty of care in respect of fire safety on buildings rests with the owner/occupier, which could include,

  • An employer with control of the workplace
  • A person with overall management control of a building
  • An occupier of the premises
  • The owner of a premises
  • The landlord where building is in multi-occupancy.

Every person who has control over premises has a duty to;

(a) take all reasonable measures to guard against the outbreak of fire on the premises

(b) provide reasonable fire safety measures for the premises and prepare and provide appropriate fire safety procedures to ensure the safety of persons on the premises,

(c) ensure  the fire safety measures and procedures referred to in paragraph (b) are applied at all time

(d) ensure as far as reasonable practicable the safety of persons on the premises in the event of an outbreak of fire.

However, many people still do not understand their responsibilities as defined by the legislation, which is a possible reason why there are still regular reports of breaches of fire safety in the news every week.  Better education in the responsibilities towards fire safety will lead to safer communities for all.

Who does the Fire Services Act apply to?

The Fire Services Act applies whether the business employs 2 or 5000 people – the size does not exclude them from the legislation.  It applies whether the company is a large, well-known brand or a small self-employed family business.  The premises could be a charity or not-for-profit, or a business focussed on profit, whether that is an office, a shop, a museum, or any other building accessed by the public.  Whatever the nature of the premises – if the building is not a private residence, then the Act applies.  The Act also applies to the communal areas of multiple occupancy residences or blocks of flats.

The legislation applies directly to anyone and everyone that owns or is responsible for non-domestic premises. This person is called the ‘Responsible Person’, In the case of a business, it is almost always the employer. In a public building such as a school or hospital, it could be the trust, academy chain, or local authority.

So when it comes to breaching fire safety law, there are millions of people that can be held responsible for their actions (or lack thereof) to protect people from fire.  These people all need to have a good understanding of how the law applies to their business or premises so that they can create a safe environment for themselves and all of the people within their buildings – whether they are employees, customers, visitors, patrons, residents, schoolchildren, or patients.

How is the order enforced?

Fire safety legislation is enforced by Fire Safety Enforcement Officers from the local Fire and Rescue Service. They can enter any workplace at any suitable hour, without giving notice, though notice may be given when the inspector thinks it is appropriate. The EO will then conduct an inspection to check out the workplace, the work activities, the management of fire safety, and audit the Responsible Person’s fire risk assessment to ensure that they are fulfilling their duties on fire safety law. The EO may offer assistance or advice to help, but they may also talk to employees or their representatives, take photographs, serve notices, or take action if there is a risk to fire safety that needs to be dealt with straight away.

The problem is that there is a huge lack of understanding of the law by Responsible Persons and how it is enforced.  Whether this is down to a lack of education on the implications, or simply a reluctance to find out about fire safety law is only conjecture – but what is surmisable is that breaches of fire safety law happen regularly.

But there is a way to ensure that all responsible persons are aware of their responsibilities: education.  Getting people interested in fire safety and helping them to learn about the legislation is a necessary step towards a future where devastating incidents are greatly reduced.

Fire protection is not a subject to be taken lightly – fires can destroy lives, ruin businesses, disrupt services in the vicinity, and release dangerous chemicals into the environment.  The effects can be lifelong.

In light of this problem, the Fire Industry Association in the UK has created a short video to explain to all Responsible Persons what their responsibilities are and what steps they need to take to protect themselves from fire and comply with fire safety legislation.

The video, developed by a team of fire safety experts from across the fire safety industry, took almost a year to create and release and delivers fire safety information for Responsible Persons in a clear and concise manner.