Working out who is responsible for fire safety.
What is the Responsible Person responsible for?
Generally, the employer (Responsible Person) is responsible for the fire safety of all who are lawfully on the premises (Relevant Persons). These include employees, visitors, contractors, members of the public and any person in the immediate vicinity, such as people walking past. Operational fire fighters at incidents are not included.
In multi-site organisations, head office may nominate employees to manage fire safety matters at branches. If this occurs, responsibility for fire safety remains with the Responsible Person/Persons.
Responsibility for managing duties on behalf of the Responsible Person (RP) at the head of an organisation may be shared, for example, between branch or area manager, depending on the extent of control each has i.e. they must have the appropriate authority, skills and training to manage these duties.
If the manager does not have the authority to arrange repairs to, say, a defective fire alarm, then responsibility falls on someone above him or her who does. Delegation of duties must be documented.
Is it permissible for others to carry out duties on behalf of the Responsible Persons?
Yes, the RP may nominate Competent Persons (CP). For instance, an RP may nominate others to act as fire marshals or wardens with a duty for assisting with evacuation; or an engineer might be given the task of installing and testing fire alarms.
The RP must ensure CPs have the ability to carry out their tasks i.e. they must be properly competent, trained and equipped.
Please bear in mind that delegating duties falling within the RP’s remit does not absolve a person from responsibility. It is down to the RP to put sufficient checks in place to ensure delegated duties are carried out correctly.
Do employees have responsibility?
Yes, employees must take reasonable care for the safety of themselves and others who may be affected by their acts or omissions at work e.g. wedging open a fire door. It is the RP’s responsibility to ensure employees receive training.
Who is responsible for fire safety in multi-occupied premises?
This may be shared by several people. In a multi-occupied office, the landlord/owner and tenants may be responsible for common areas with each occupier responsible for the areas they control.
The fire alarm may be the sole responsibility of the landlord/owner if it is common to the entire premises. A tenancy agreement should identify who is responsible for each area of fire safety.
Occupiers have a duty to take reasonable steps to co-operate and co-ordinate with each other. If Occupier A fails to co-operate with Occupier B, Occupier B should take up the matter with the landlord/owner. The lack of co-operation does not absolve Occupier B from their fire safety responsibilities for Relevant Persons in their part of the premises.
Who is responsible for fire safety when there is no employer?
The person in control of the premises is responsible. This could be the person or organisation paying the rent or owning the building. e.g. a charity trustee in the case of a charity shop or a parish council in case of a village hall.
Who is responsible for fire safety in an unoccupied building?
This is normally the owner of the building.