In the event of a fire in a building, the built-in fire protection - fire resisting walls, floors, doors and other structural elements - are vital to maintaining the building's stability and integrity, by dividing it into compartmented areas of manageable risk. Such compartmentation is designed to restrict the growth and spread of smoke and fire, to give occupants time to escape, to allow the firefighters to do their job and to limit the extent of the damage.

It is vital, therefore, that these protection measures are correctly designed, specified, installed and maintained, if the building is to behave as expected should fire break out. But, claims the Association for Specialist Fire Protection (ASFP), general awareness of appropriate products and systems, as well as the responsibilities of particular individuals, is not as good as it ought to be. Which is why it has just issued an advisory note entitled 'Awareness guidance for the responsible person under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005' (RRFSO).

The document explains who is responsible, what they need to know, how they can ensure that fire protection is installed properly, who should carry out fire risk assessments on their behalf and where they can find a suitable risk assessor.

The RRFSO states that the 'responsible person' can be the employer, any other person who may have control of any part of the premises, or the person in control of the premises. To fully comply with the RRFSO, it is essential that he/she ensures that an appropriate risk assessment is carried out and maintained on all premises that he/she are legally responsible for. This includes creating a safety manual that includes a fire safety policy statement (or fire strategy), a fire safety specification for the building, information relating to regulatory requirements and planned inspection, maintenance and testing schedules and records.

Where work involving alterations or additions to the fabric of the building is undertaken, the responsible person must ensure that the passive fire protection measures are not compromised in any way. Where such work involves the addition, or reinstatement of passive fire protection measures, it is essential that the work is undertaken by experienced and qualified installers, utilising appropriate materials and practices.

Under the RRSFO the 'responsible person' may seek to appoint a 'competent person' (consultant or company) to undertake a suitable fire risk assessment. But unfortunately, says the ASFP, at present there is no formal qualification required to act as a Risk Assessor. It is imperative, therefore, that any Risk Assessor is able to demonstrate that they have the appropriate expertise. Risk assessors should either be a member of a competent person certification scheme accredited by UKAS to BS EN ISO 17024:2003, or work for a company that has certification to EN 45011 for fire risk assessment.


Date posted: 13.01.11