Last Updated on 21 July 2022.
Every business and commercial premises will have a ‘Responsible Person’. When it comes to fire safety, the buck stops with them.
Here’s everything you need to know from how to identify your building’s ‘Responsible Person’ to exactly what they’re responsible for.
What this article covers:
What is meant by the ‘Responsible Person’?
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 officially came into force in October 2006, replacing more than 100 pieces of fire safety legislation relating to commercial premises.
As well as simplifying and unifying many acts of legislation into one document, it also sought to establish clear rules and responsibilities for business owners and managers.
…And so, with Article 3, came the definition of the ‘Responsible Person’:
“In relation to a workplace, the employer, if the workplace is to any extent under his or her control.”
Or, in relation to a premises not falling within the category of a workplace:
“The person who has control of the premises,” or “the owner, where the person in control of the premises does not have control in connection with the carrying on by that person of a trade, business or other undertaking.”
Essentially, a commercial premises’ ‘Responsible Person’ is the employer, owner or the person who controls the premises.
What if I am a commercial landlord?
The owner of the business or the assigned person in control who occupies the commercial space is responsible for fire safety on a day-to-day basis.
The landlord is responsible for any communal areas and the building’s structure, but fire safety procedures must be undertaken by the owner or controller of the business operating day-to-day in that space.
If your business sits within a building with other separate businesses operating within it, for example an office tower block, then the landlord or building owner is responsible for fire safety in the communal areas in the following ways:
A) Carrying out a Fire Risk Assessment of the communal areas.
And reviewing these risk assessments on a regular basis to ensure it reflects the building and the number of occupants in its current state.
B) Installing a fire alarm detection system within the communal areas that is compatible with the Fire Risk Assessment’s recommendation.
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 stipulates that fire alarm systems are installed in compliance with British Standards (BS 5839-1:2017).
It’s important to trust only a BAFE SP203-1 approved company; this means they have been independently audited and accredited for the design, installation, commissioning and maintenance of fire alarm systems in compliance with British Standards.
C) Maintaining the installed fire alarm system with a service visit by a competent specialist every six months.
Similar to installations, regular maintenance by a competent specialist (again who is BAFE SP203-1 approved) is crucial to ensure the efficiency and longevity of a fire alarm system.
Commercial premises should check their fire alarm systems daily for faults, test them weekly to ensure functionality and, according to fire safety regulations (BS 5839), must a fire alarm maintenance contract with a service visit every six months.
These tests and service visits should be recorded in a log book, which, similarly to a Fire Risk Assessment, is a legal document as they would be submitted as proof to Fire Safety Officers during an investigation if a fire had taken place within the building to demonstrate due diligence and legal compliancy had been met.
D) Ensuring all other fire safety requirements as specified in the Fire Risk Assessment are met.
This involves implementing measures such as having (and maintaining, if applicable) adequate fire safety signage, emergency lighting, fire doors and fire extinguishers within the communal areas.
If a building has other systems in place, such as smoke vents, smoke curtains in lift spaces, and/or sprinklers, then these will all need to be installed and maintained by a competent specialist also.
Your Fire Risk Assessor will outline the efficiency and shortfalls of all your employed systems, and your report will also tell you what you’re missing and must implement in order to stay safe and legal.
Your Premises, Your Responsibility
The individual offices or commercial spaces located off the communal areas within a building are each individually responsible for their space’s fire safety procedures.
The landlord may specify within the lease contract that they will incorporate certain responsibilities, such as the maintenance of the fire alarm, however the ‘Responsible Person’ for the office or commercial space is still in charge of ensuring their space is both safe and legal.
Some companies, for instance, choose to have their own fire alarm panels installed within their own areas, or prefer to use their own maintenance companies for the devices within their specified area, as opposed to the landlord’s choice of maintenance company for the communal areas – even though it might still be linked to the same overall system.
It’s important to establish and explicitly note which responsibilities lay with the landlord, and which lay with you, as the business owner.
If there is no landlord, then the buck stops with the business owner and/or the person in control of the premises.
This person is legally responsible for taking reasonable steps to reduce the risk of a fire and ensuring people can safely escape the premises in the event that there is a fire.
The ‘Responsible Person’ doesn’t only have a responsibility towards the staff members occupying the commercial space on an everyday basis, but also all of the people that might visit the premises.
Duties of the Responsible Person
Similar to the steps outlined above relating communal areas, the duties of the ‘Responsible Person’ for a commercial space include:
Carrying out Fire Risk Assessments
And reviewing them on a regular basis (typically annually and immediately following any structural changes, such as refurbishments.
Implementing the necessary requirements for fire safety
As stipulated in the Fire Risk Assessment and ensuring compatibility with British Standards.
Ensuring the commercial space is equipped with adequate fire-fighting equipment and fire detection
And ensuring the employed systems are both installed and maintained professionally.
Educating all staff members on fire safety procedures
Such as the emergency plan for evacuation proceedings, and offering periodical fire safety training – especially for assigned fire wardens/marshals.
Ensuring all fire safety, as well as health and safety, considerations are met
Particularly for disabled and vulnerable persons within the premises.
Enforcing the practice of fire drills to ensure evacuation procedures run smoothly and efficiently
These should take place at least twice a year, or once a term for schools.
Carrying out or assigning the appropriate person, such as a site/facilities manager or caretaker, to carry out weekly fire alarm tests
And report any faults to the fire alarm maintenance company and/or building managers.
Eliminating hazards and reducing risks
By ensuring exits are kept clear, fire doors are kept closed and there is appropriate signage indicating all escape routes.
Coordinating with any other responsible persons
For a cohesive fire safety strategy universally known throughout the building.
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