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Fire Safety in blocks of flats - Who is responsible for fire safety within the building? – Part 2

Posted: 17/03/2015 13:09

In last week’s blog, we began to look at the management of fire safety within a block of flats. This week, we look at who is ultimately responsible for fire safety in a building and what their duties are.

Under the terms of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order, there should be a ‘Responsible Person’ nominated by the company to be responsible for fire safety concerns. If an organisation does not nominate such an individual, the responsible person is considered to be the owner or most senior member of staff. As well as being charged with undertaking fire risk assessments and assuring that the actions arising from that are completed, a responsible person can be prosecuted if they are found to be negligent.
In a smaller organisation, the responsible person might be the member of staff who deals with all elements of health and safety in the organisation. It is essential that they are fully briefed and aware of the legislation and fire safety issues that may relate to the block of flats.
In a larger organisation, the actual tasks of fire prevention, maintenance and fire safety may fall to different departments, for example Maintenance may deal with repairs and testing, while Lettings might liaise with residents over flat alterations and fire safety information. In this case, it is essential that the responsible person oversees all those activities and ensures that they form a cohesive fire protection strategy.
A Fire Safety Officer from the Fire Service may inspect the premises at any time and it is within their remit to check the fire risk assessment is sufficiently thorough and up to date. They will also check that the fire prevention methods are adequate. If they feel your fire safety provisions are not appropriate, they might issue an informal notice which contains direction on additional safety measures. However, if they feel it is warranted, they may also issue a formal fire safety notice which can take one of three forms – Alterations, Enforcement or Prohibition.
An Alterations notice will notify you if you have a high risk area or are likely to have one if the use of the premises changes. An Enforcement notice relates to a serious risk that is not being dealt with, this notice will state what improvements are required and by what deadline. A Prohibition notice is the most serious of all and occurs when the FSO feels that the risk is too great and the premises must be closed or access restricted immediately. All notices are subject to an appeals process via the local magistrates court within 21 days of the date of the notice.
Every member of staff whose role involves fire safety and fire protection for the block of flats must have this element of their job formalised as a part of the overall fire safety policy. An FSO would require that the fire safety policy formed the strategy which allows for effective fire safety planning, organisation and review process.
In the case of an organisation where the responsible person is not a specialist in fire safety, it is acceptable for them to seek outside appropriately qualified help in order to understand, undertake and act upon the requirements of the fire risk assessment and to put together an effective fire safety policy. In the case of purpose-built block of flats, it is a requirement that the advisor is suitably experienced in this field, as it is substantially different to the fire safety procedures of other buildings.
Next week’s blog will continue on this subject. In the meantime, if you have any queries about a project or wish to discuss this blog series, please contact Peter Gyere in the first instance on 0208 668 8663.
The Complete Fire Safety Management Platform is the only fully comprehensive online fire risk assessment and fire risk management platform. Our aim, at CFSM, is to make the process of becoming fire safe, straightforward and, to use our expertise in fire risk assessment and fire safety management to guide you through each step, resulting in your premises meeting all legal, insurance and ethical fire safety considerations.


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