The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 places considerable responsibility on anyone in charge of commercial premises, or anyone, such as a landlord, who rents out property to tenants, and is regarded as the “responsible person”.

The Order itself describes the responsible person as follows:

“In this Order “responsible person” means—

(a) in relation to a workplace, the employer, if the workplace is to any extent under his control;
(b) in relation to any premises not falling within paragraph (a)—
(I) the person who has control of the premises (as occupier or otherwise) in connection with the carrying on by him of a trade, business or other undertakings (for profit or not); or
(ii) 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 undertakings.”

However, the biggest problem that most responsible persons have is that – by and large – they do not have the training or skills to carry out a building fire risk assessment. There is no reason that they should have.

Let’s be honest, if your skills are as an accountant and you fully understand tax law and all of the infinite loopholes and regulations, you can sell those skills to other people in business who do not have them and need someone who does, so that they can have their accounts produced in the form required by the Inland Revenue, and in such a way that those accounts mean that they pay the minimum of tax.

If you are a brain surgeon, you have the skills and abilities required to carry out brain surgery, which is a highly technical procedure, in order to save someone’s life.

Both of those people – and many more like them in all sorts of different professions and businesses – have a particular skillset which other people don’t have and whom they can help as a result. Neither of those people is likely to have had any training whatsoever in carrying out a fire risk assessment. Yet the law requires them to do so.

Furthermore, the accountant would not know where to begin with brain surgery, and equally, the brain surgeon probably has no clue about accounts.

Fortunately, to some extent, the law recognises this, because as the responsible person you are allowed to appoint any other person to carry out the fire risk assessment for you and on your behalf. The only requirement, in that case, is that you appoint a “competent person”, which is fair enough.

However, you then run into another problem: how do you know that the person you appoint is “competent”? If you own a business and are the CEO you might choose to appoint your General Manager to carry out the fire risk assessment. But he is very likely no more skilled than you are.

Then there is another section in the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 headed simply “Offences”. These are the offences for which you can be taken to court, and in some cases could end up in prison. This has happened. This section runs to 11 paragraphs, many of them with sub-paragraphs, and totals just short of 800 words. Some of them are obvious, such as it being an offence to make an entry in a record that you know to be false. Fair enough.

However, how about this? It is an offence to “fail, without reasonable excuse, in relation to apparatus to which article 37 applies (luminous tube signs)— to ensure that such apparatus which is installed in premises complies with article 37 (3) and (4)”. Yeah. Right.

All of the foregoing is why so many “responsible persons” prefer to appoint us at UK-Fire Risk Assessments to carry out their required fire risk assessments for them instead. It is our job to understand what other people would simply consider as “mumbo jumbo”, and we have the skills to undertake the assessments on premises of any size, and where necessary – which it is in most cases – produce for you a written report which you are required to keep under the law.