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The Responsible Person

The term Responsible Person refers to the person or persons who have responsibilities for ensuring fire safety within non-domestic premises. The concept of the Responsible Person is outlined in the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005But it is then amended and extended in both the Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 and Section 156 of the Building Safety Act 2022.


The Duties of the Responsible Person are necessarily detailed and wide ranging.  But if you are designated as a Responsible Person on a Fire Risk Assessment its important to understand what your responsibilities are.  Many people we speak assume that they must be notified if they are listed as a Responsible Person.  Or believe that because they are just a manager, maintenance person or building owner that it doesn’t apply to them.  The central point about defining who the Responsible Person/s is that in most businesses it’s hardly ever one person responsibility for fire safety.  Everyone must work together to keep everyone safe.

Who is The Responsible Person

 

The Responsible Person can vary depending on the type of premises, its ownership and how the businesses with in it is structured. Its defined legally here.  But in general, a Responsible Person is one or more of the following roles:

 

  1. Building Owner: In a rented commercial property, the owner of the building can be a Responsible Person.
  2. Letting Agent: In some scenarios, some or all of the building may be let to letting agent who then goes on to lease parts or all or the building to other businesses.
  3. Sub Letting Agent: There are also scenarios which we’ve come across where there are a hierarchy of lets.  Such as one block of flats where there was a building owner,  a letting agent for the entire building, then someone who rented just one flat, who then himself sub let that again to people via airbnb.
  4. Employer: In a workplace setting, the employer is usually always designated as the Responsible Person.
  5. Manager: Someone who is responsible for overseeing a building or a number of people.
  6. Maintenance Person: Where they are tasked with reporting and rectifying faults to a competent standard.
  7. Occupier: In cases where there is no clear employer or building owner, the person or organisation with control over the premises becomes the Responsible Person. This might include tenants or managing agents who have control over the use of the premises.
  8. Multiple Responsible Persons: In most cases, there may be multiple parties with responsibilities for fire safety within a premises. In such situations, the responsibilities (and liabilities) may be shared among the relevant parties.

What are their duties?

The Responsible Person plays a critical role in ensuring the safety of occupants within a building. Their duties are outlined primarily in the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. Below are some key duties typically associated with the Responsible Person:

  1. Undertaking a Fire Risk Assessment: The Responsible Person must conduct and regularly review a comprehensive fire risk assessment for the premises. This assessment should identify potential fire hazards, who is at risk, and the adequacy of existing fire safety measures.  The responsible person must not appoint a person to assist them unless that person is deemed competent (see Section 9A).
  2. Implementing Fire Safety Measures: Based on the findings of the Fire Risk Assessment, they are responsible for implementing appropriate fire safety measures to mitigate identified risks. This may include installing fire detection and alarm systems, emergency lighting, fire extinguishers, and signage. Also the they must ensure that routes to emergency exits from premises and the exits themselves are kept clear at all times.
  3. Creating and Maintaining a Fire Safety Plan: The Responsible Person should develop and maintain an effective Fire Safety Plan for the premises. This plan should outline procedures for preventing fires and actions to be taken in the event of a fire.  Such as evacuation procedures, assembly points, and responsibilities of staff members.
  4. Providing Fire Safety Information: The Responsible Person must ensure that all occupants of the premises are provided with relevant fire safety information. This includes informing employees and other relevant persons about fire risks, evacuation procedures, and the use of fire safety equipment.
  5. Providing Fire Safety Training: The Responsible Person must ensure that employees are provided with adequate safety training.  Both at the start of their employment and on an ongoing basis.  The number of people to be trained and the level required will be determined by the Fire Risk Assessment.  Checkout our Fire Safety Training page to find out about the different levels of training available.
  6. Regular Testing and Maintenance: They are responsible for ensuring that all fire safety equipment and systems within the premises are regularly tested and maintained in working order. This includes fire alarms, emergency lighting, fire doors, and fire extinguishers.  At intervals set in the Fire Risk Assessment.
  7. Coordinating with Relevant Authorities: The Responsible Person should liaise with the relevant fire authorities, such as the local fire and rescue service, and cooperate with them on matters relating to fire safety. This may include providing access to the premises for inspections or assisting with fire safety investigations.
  8. Reviewing and Updating Fire Safety Measures: All Fire safety measures should be reviewed and regularly updated.  To ensure they remain effective and appropriate for the changing needs of the premises.
  9. Coordinating with other Responsible PeopleWhere 2 or more people share duties in relation to the same premises they must co-operate with each other and take all reasonable steps to inform the other responsible persons of relevant risks.
  10. Domestic Premises: Where the premises has 2 or more domestic premises, such as flats above a shop.  The Responsible Person must give residents comprehensible and information about the relevant fire safety matters.  This should include any risks identified on the Fire Risk Assessment, all preventive and protective measures, details of all Responsible Persons (see Section 21A).  
  11. Provision of information to a new responsible person: Where a Responsible Person ceases to be a responsible person for premises and is replaced. The outgoing person must provide the incoming person with any relevant fire safety information such as Fire Risk Assessments and reviews, identities of all other Responsible Persons, any Accountable Persons, all fire safety information and any other information specified by regulation.
  12. Higher Risk Buildings: higher risk building is one that is at least 18m high (or 7 storeys) and contains at least 2 residential units.   The responsible person must ascertain whether there are one or more Accountable Persons and if so co-operate with them.  For the purpose of the accountable person carrying out their duties correctly.

 

What are they liable for?

Failure to fulfil these duties can lead to serious legal consequences.  Including fines and/or imprisonment. This can include situations where no fire has occurred or persons harmed.  Therefore, it’s crucial for the Responsible Person to take their responsibilities seriously and prioritise the safety of occupants within the premises.  They should fully understand their obligations and take every proactive measures to ensure compliance with fire safety regulations.

 

The extent to what someone is liable for is hard to define here – every business is different.  Also the legal description is torturous in its wording.  But the general summary should be as follows:

 

If you have any responsibility, control or decision making capacity in regard to the maintenance, repair or safety of any specific part of the premises.  Then you are liable to the extent of that control and area.

 

Failure to fulfil their duties can result in the following being served upon the Responsible Person:

 

  1. Alterations Notices: This is a formal notification issued by the fire authority or building control authority that the premises constitute a serious risk to relevant persons.  This may relate either to an existing issue or a proposed change to the premises.  Before anything is done the Responsible Person must notify the enforcing authority of the proposed changes.
  2. Enforcement Notices: An Enforcement Notice is a formal legal notice issued by the fire authority or building control authority.  It’s issued when there is a failure to comply with fire safety regulations or requirements. It is a regulatory tool used to address deficiencies in fire safety measures within premises and to compel the Responsible Person(s) to take corrective action to mitigate fire risks and ensure the safety of occupants.  The Enforcement Notice will specify the areas of non-compliance with fire safety regulations or deficiencies in fire safety measures within the premises. This may include issues identified during fire safety inspections, audits, or investigations.  It will outline the specific actions or measures that must be taken to rectify the identified deficiencies and bring the premises into compliance with fire safety regulations. This could include implementing or upgrading fire detection and alarm systems, improving means of escape, enhancing fire-resistant construction, or providing adequate firefighting equipment.  It ill typically specify a deadline by which the required remedial actions must be completed. The timeline provided will depend on the severity of the non-compliance and the urgency of addressing the fire safety risks.  The recipient of an has the right to appeal the notice if they believe it has been issued unfairly or if they disagree with the requirements outlined. The appeals process allows for a review of the enforcement action by an independent body or tribunal.  But ultimately failure to comply within the specified time frame can lead to further enforcement action, including fines, prosecution, or other legal proceedings. The fire authority or building control authority may take additional steps to ensure compliance, such as imposing penalties or carrying out works themselves and recovering costs from the Responsible Person(s).
  3. Prohibition noticesThis is a formal notice issued by the fire authority or building control authority.  It’s used when they believe there is an imminent risk to the safety of occupants within a building due to fire safety deficiencies.  Fire safety inspectors have the authority to issue a Prohibition Notice to prohibit certain activities or uses of the premises. The purpose of the Prohibition Notice is to prevent the risk of fire-related harm to occupants or visitors to the building.  The notice will specify the fire safety deficiencies or hazards that pose an imminent risk to occupants’ safety. These hazards could include issues such as blocked fire exits, faulty fire detection systems, inadequate means of escape, or other serious fire safety violations.  The Prohibition Notice will outline specific activities or uses of the premises that are prohibited until the identified hazards are addressed. This may include prohibiting certain areas from being occupied, restricting the use of certain equipment or processes, or closing the premises.  The notice may specify a deadline by which the Responsible Person must comply with the requirements of the notice. This timeline is typically determined based on the severity of the hazards and the urgency of the situation.  Failure to comply with a Prohibition Notice can result in serious consequences, including legal enforcement action, fines, or prosecution. It is essential for the to take immediate action to address the identified hazards and ensure compliance with fire safety regulations.

Failure to properly address the above matters can result in an unlimited fine or a summary conviction.

Who is an Accountable Person?

An Accountable Person, in relation to a higher risk building is someone who:


  • Holds a legal estate in possession in any part of the common parts.  Such as the corridors in a block of flats.
  • Does not hold a legal estate in any part of the building. But who is under a relevant repairing obligation in relation to any part of the common parts.  Such as a maintenance company or a tenants group.

The aim of identifying Accountable Persons is where the ownership and management of a particular premises complex.  Such as a block of flats where:

  1. There is a building owner, but the actual flats have all been sold to other entities.  They are only in control of the common areas (corridors, exterior, entrance etc).  They can authorise work to be done, but don’t undertake it themselves.
  2. A maintenance company handles the maintenance of the common areas.  They can only in work authorised areas and only for specific types of work.
  3. A tenants organisation operates to identify issues and report them to the building owner.  They are also each responsible for undertaking basic checks of items like fire doors.
  4. Contractors come in to service and repair various equipment such as the fire alarm, smoke vents, dry risers etc.
  5. An offshore investment company owns 5 flats.  They have never even seen the flats.
  6. A lettings company is responsible for letting out the flats to generate profit for the investment company.
  7. The lettings company uses a 3rd party website to list the flats for rent on a short term basis.
  8. Someone rents the flat but only gets information regarding the building via the 3rd party website

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