Fire Safety, Maintenance

Fire Risk Assessment

Whilst a fire risk assessment process, hazards, people at risk and the evaluation of these risks will be highly specific to the premises at hand, this article aims to give a broad overview of the key considerations for providers of sleeping accommodation.

What is a fire risk assessment?

Landlord’s have a legal duty to ensure that their rented property is safe from fire. A fire risk assessment is evidence that you have fulfilled your responsibilities.

Without one, you could be open to claims if there was a fire. What’s more, landlords of houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) are legally obliged to carry out fire risk assessments.

By conducting a fire risk assessment of your private or social rental accommodation you will be able to determine what the chance is of a fire starting, and any dangers to those in the immediate vicinity.

The assessment will be a methodical look at the premises, the activities carried out there and the likelihood that a fire could start and cause harm to those in and around the premises.

The aims of the fire risk assessment are unanimous:

  1. Identify any fire hazards
  2. Reduce the risk of those hazards causing harm to as low as reasonably practicable
  3. Decide what physical fire precautions and management arrangements are necessary to ensure the safety of people in the premises if a fire does start.

Who conducts a fire risk assessment?

In England and Wales the person who has the duty to comply with the Fire Safety Order and conduct a fire risk assessment is called the Responsible Person. This person has an absolute duty to comply with legislation.

In the case of blocks of flats and houses in multiple occupation, the fire safety legislation applies to common or shared parts. In these cases the responsibility for fire safety usually rests with the landlord who is responsible for conducting the fire risk assessment.

If there is more than one responsible person, you will have to work together to meet your responsibilities. If you are a responsible person but do not possess the necessary skillset to conduct the fire risk assessment, you will need to ask a ‘competent person’ to carry out that fire risk assessment on your behalf (e.g. someone with the necessary training/skills).

 What legislation applies to you?

One of the problems for fire safety in sleeping accommodation is that there is often an overlap between two enforcing authorities: the local housing authority (1) and the local fire and rescue service (2). As a result, there are two types of risk assessment to consider for England and Wales:

(1) Housing Act 2004, which introduced the Housing Health and Safety Rating System

(2) *Fire Safety Order 2005. Responsibility for complying with the Order rests with the ‘responsible person’ (person who has control of the premises) who needs to carry out fire risk assessments in the common areas of HMOs, flats, maisonettes and sheltered accommodation (but does not apply to individual dwellings).

Before undertaking a risk assessment, it is best practice to read the Local Authorities Coordinators of Regulatory Services (LACORS) guidance (2008). This offers guidance for landlords and fire safety enforcement officers in both local housing authorities (LHAs) and in Fire and Rescue authorities (FRAs) on how to ensure adequate fire safety in different types of sleeping accommodation.