What is a fire risk assessment? 

Buildings should be reviewed to assess fire risks and the steps that can be taken to reduce them. Business premises and blocks of flats must have a fire risk assessment and fire safety plans based on the assessment. 
If less than five people regularly live or work in the building, the fire risk assessment doesn’t have to be written down, but it’s still a good idea to have a record to make sure everyone understands the risks and that recommendations to minimise them are implemented. 
Even with fewer people in the building, you might have to have a written assessment if your fire brigade says you must have one or your premises are required to have a licence. 

Legal requirements 

Your fire risk assessment should be reviewed every year and a completely new one should be completed every five years – it’s surprising how much can change. The assessment must be carried out by a ‘competent person’ although that doesn’t have to be a qualified Fire Risk Assessor. 
Changes that might affect your assessment could include the building’s structure or use, materials used or stored on site, and new or additional employees, including those with limited mobility or other specific requirements. 
What’s included in the assessment will depend on the building and how it is used. Overall, it should include: 
the building’s construction, layout, and use 
who is living or working in the building 
security measures to prevent arson 
use and management of the building, equipment and materials that could increase fire risk 
design, installation and maintenance of alarms and emergency lighting and access to escape routes 
measures to prevent or slow down the spread of fire 
location and use of the right types of fire extinguishers 
training and fire drill practice 
building management, maintenance and record keeping. 

Responsible person 

The law requires every block of flats and business to have a designated ‘responsible person’ for the building’s fire safety. They must make sure that: 
there is a valid fire risk assessment and plan 
all relevant fire safety activities are carried out, such as checking fire extinguishers 
any necessary action is taken to prevent fires and the risk of death or injury if a fire takes place. 
As a small business owner, you might undertake this role or nominate someone in your team. For the common areas in flats, like stairwells and corridors, this role will normally be taken on by the managing agent or landlord while residents are responsible for their own living area. 

What happens if you don’t have a fire risk assessment 

If you don’t have a fire risk assessment and appropriate fire safety precautions you can be prosecuted, fined, and in severe cases, sent to prison. 
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