Fire safety and risk assessment

Duties of the appropriate person for fire safety

The appropriate person is someone who has the duty of carrying out or arranging a risk assessment of their business premises. They must also implement and maintain appropriate and adequate fire safety measures to minimise the risk to life from fire. See fire safety responsibility.

If you are the appropriate person for fire safety you must make sure that:

  • fire risks are removed, reduced or managed to an acceptable level to protect lives
  • everyone who may be in, or around, your premises can escape if there is a fire

Fire risk assessment and actions to take

As part of the risk assessment you need to think about all the people who might be on your commercial property, including employees, visitors or members of the public. You need to pay particular attention to those who may need special help, such as elderly or disabled people or children.

You must:

  • carry out a fire risk assessment and identify possible dangers and risks
  • think about who might be particularly at risk - for example disabled employees, or people who work with hazardous chemicals
  • remove or reduce the risk from fire, as far as reasonably possible
  • put in place fire precautions to deal with any risks that remain
  • make sure there is protection if you use or store flammable or explosive materials
  • have a fire management plan to deal with emergencies including evacuation procedures, and appoint a suitable number of competent persons to help implement it
  • record your findings - if five or more persons are employed - and review them regularly

Main requirements under the fire safety legislation.

Who should carry out the fire risk assessment?

Those with the responsibility for premises are likely to be best placed to maintain fire safety precautions and understand and address the risk to lives and property that a fire could present.

The duty to carry out and implement a fire risk assessment lies with the appropriate person. Achieving fire safety is often a matter of common sense, and in many cases there may be no need for specialist or formal knowledge or training, providing the appropriate person makes enough time available to go through all the necessary steps.

In carrying out a fire risk assessment, however, the appropriate person may choose to appoint one or more competent persons to assist them. The level of necessary competence is not prescribed in the Fire and Rescue Services (Northern Ireland) Order 2006, which recognises that the extent of competency will vary according to the nature and complexity of the premises involved.

Fire safety law enforcement

The main enforcers of fire safety law are the Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS), who must be satisfied with your safety measures. If they are not satisfied, they will offer you advice on what you need to do.

If the NIFRS finds major fire safety failings, they can serve an enforcement notice requiring you to make improvements to ensure your premises complies with the law. NIFRS will take a supportive and balanced approach by helping you to understand and meet regulatory requirements. NIFRS enforcement policy.