Fire Consultant – Advice on How and When to Use a Fire Safety Consultant

The increased burden of responsibility placed on employers by recent legislation can leave many business owners feeling either unsure about what they need to do to comply with all the laws, or else unable to find the time to carry out all the duties that are required of them. One example of these duties is the need to carry out regular fire risk assessments. Under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, the responsibility for ensuring workplace fire safety was placed firmly on the shoulders of UK employers. 

This law abolished the previous use of fire certificates, which were issued by the fire authorities following applications and inspections of premises. The only involvement of the fire authorities now is to check that every business has carried out a fire risk assessment on their premises, which they can do by asking to see a copy of your findings. The assessment procedure has to identify any potential risks to people in the building, and outline the steps which have been taken to minimise these risks. Any business employing five or more people has to record their findings too, so that the authorities can inspect it as proof that the employer complying with the law.

The law requires that whoever carries out the fire risk assessment for a premises must be a competent person, but does not specify what exactly this means. For small and straightforward businesses, it is perfectly possible for someone in the business to carry out the fire risk assessment by following guidance which is freely available online. However, even in this relatively straightforward situation, it can be difficult to find the staff resource to actually give this work the time it needs.

In larger and more complex premises, a greater degree of knowledge and experience is required, so it becomes more difficult to judge whether someone can be deemed to be competent or not. Part of the problem is that people are understandably not even aware of the things they do not know about. For example, if you could not tell the difference between an ordinary door and a fire resistant one, or if you could not tell heat detectors and smoke detectors apart, you may struggle to undertake an adequate assessment.

It is in circumstances such as these that many businesses turn to fire consultants for help and advice. This can take the form of getting a consultant to undertake the fire risk assessment directly, or providing training to you or your staff so that you can carry out your assessments in-house. For many companies, fire consultants are used to deliver and administer their entire fire safety requirement. This can include the fire risk assessment, creation and implementation of an emergency plan, leading practice evacuations, staff training and even equipment maintenance. It really depends on the needs and resources of the business and the complexity of the premises involved.

The best fire consultants tend to be ex fire authority personnel, who have years of first hand knowledge and experience and know exactly what the fire authorities require of business premises. There are many such companies operating around the UK, and the best way of finding the most reliable ones is through personal recommendation.

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