Our team of fire safety management experts have developed a good resource of answers to some common questions asked by our customers. If you have a question on workplace compliance, please email us at info@assurityconsulting.co.uk

    When should I undertake a Fire Risk Assessment of a newly constructed property?

    Firstly, do you require a Fire Safety Assessment prior to your Fire Risk Assessment? PAS 79-1 Fire Risk Assessment Part 1: Premises other than housing Code of Practice states that Pre-Occupancy Fire Safety Assessments “are carried out if the end user wants to establish that the construction stage of the building has been completed, the fire strategy has been implemented correctly, and the necessary fire safety design measures have been incorporated prior to hand over and subsequent observation”. It further states that “it is important that a Pre-Occupancy Fire Safety Assessment is not confused with a Fire Risk Assessment to which PAS 79 refers”.  

    Next, do you wish to have a Pre-Occupancy Fire Risk Assessment? This can be undertaken once handover has been completed, but before the premises is fully occupied. The purpose of this is to determine the fire life safety control measures you need to have in place prior to occupation. Often seen as a way of formulating a fire safety snagging list that can be rectified to improve life safety measures prior to occupation.

    It is very important to remember that if a Pre-Occupancy Fire Risk Assessment is undertaken a full Fire Risk Assessment must also take place. PAS 79-1 states ‘the FRA should be carried out only when the premises are in normal use’. 

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    What does the Fire Safety Act 2021 do?

    In essence, the Fire Safety Act 2021 clarifies the scope of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRFSO), to make it clear that the Responsible Person or Duty Holder must manage and reduce the risk associated with external cladding and fire doors in their building. This is a development which has appeared following the events of Grenfell and fills in gaps left in the RRFSO when it was originally passed. These requirements apply to buildings with two or more domestic premises, regardless of height.

    The Fire and Rescue Service now possess powers of enforcement over those found not to be adhering to these new changes, and notices could be provided to those found to not be complying with the new legislation.

    Responsible Persons are now required to include a new range of areas in the Fire Risk Assessment for these types of buildings. These areas include:

    • External Cladding;
    • Anything mounted on external walls such as windows, balconies and fixings;
    • Common Areas; and
    • Doors between private flats and common areas. 

    The Act has also clarified who the Responsible Person is in terms of managing the risk of a fire in these buildings, and therefore places the onus on them to make sure of the prevention of fires in the future. This also allows for the Fire and Rescue Service to identify accountability when failures to comply with the RRFSO, and now the Fire Safety Act, take place.

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    Evacuation: Assembly Points vs Dispersal Systems – the pros and cons of each

    The primary objective of an evacuation plan is to make sure that in the event of a fire, the occupants of a building can reach a ‘place of ultimate safety’ outside the building. This is defined as a place in which there is no immediate or future danger from fire or from the effects of a fire.

    An assembly point is an allocated safe area outside of a building where people are asked to gather after evacuation. This area should be clearly marked with appropriate signage and should be identified both in the fire evacuation plan and on fire evacuation notices. The fire assembly point should provide enough space for all of the building occupants to assemble and should not disrupt or obstruct roads or public right of ways. The assembly point should also be of sufficient distance to make sure that the attending fire-fighting services are not disrupted in their efforts to tackle the building fire. The benefit of using a designated assembly point is that it is easier to make sure everyone is accounted for and to communicate with staff to let them know when it is safe to re-enter the building, or to go home.

    We have found that in a post-COVID world, many members of staff are not familiar with the location of the designated assembly point and instead choose to congregate near the building. Finding a suitable assembly point to provide safe refuge for buildings with large numbers of staff may not always be easy, especially in densely populated areas and cities. Instead, you may consider implementing a ‘dispersal system’.

    With a dispersal system, occupants are told to leave the building either for a set period (20-30 minutes), or until they have been instructed that it is safe to return (via a mass communication system) when the nature of the alarm is determined. A mass communication system is especially important when having to notify occupants that the building is not safe to re-occupy and they need to go home.

    An alternative option is a hybrid of both systems, by organising building occupants into small groups, each one assembling in a different location. If you opt for this method you’ll need to make sure there is a procedure in place to make sure that everyone is accounted for. Communication is key here, whereby your fire marshals are responsible for liaising with each other to check that staff have safely evacuated to the correct location.

    Both methods of evacuation can be effective if implemented correctly, and your decision may even be based on your security arrangements e.g. terrorism response plan. However, the key focus should be on providing suitable training to staff, having the plans well documented, and carrying out regular drills to make sure that staff know where to go and how to check-in and let you know they have safely evacuated the building. 

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    Why is fire safety important in the workplace?

    Fire safety in the workplace is primarily the responsibility of the employer. Under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRFSO) in England and Wales employers with five or more employees must appoint a responsible person to make sure that fire safety in the workplace is sufficient and carry out a fire risk assessment in that workplace. The Fire Safety Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2010 and The Fire Safety (Scotland) Regulations 2006 are applied in those areas of the UK.

    The three main reasons why an employer must maintain good standards of fire safety in the workplace are moral, legal and financial.


    There is a moral duty to promote good fire safety in the workplace. By having adequate fire policies and procedures in place an employer is showing they take fire safety seriously. There is also a moral duty as an employer to do all you can to reduce the chance of fire-related fatalities, injuries, and environmental damage.


    From a legal standpoint, by not promoting good fire safety and maintaining good practices in the workplace, as an employer you risk not complying with legal requirements and consequently facing enforcement action or prosecution from the local fire and rescue service authority. Prosecutions can be brought against both the employer and individuals depending on the circumstances. The fire and rescue service has the power to issue notices:

    • An alterations notice can be issued “if it is felt the premises poses a serious risk to occupants, or it could pose a serious risk if a change is made to the premises or the use to which it is put.”
    • An enforcement notice can be issued “if the fire and rescue service find a serious risk that is not being managed, it will say what improvements are needed and by when.”
    • A prohibition notice can be issued “if the fire and rescue authority thinks the fire risk is so great that access to your premises needs to be prohibited or restricted.”


    By having good fire safety practices in the workplace as an employer, you are minimising the possibility of avoidable costs which could include (but are not limited to):

    • Repair costs of damaged buildings or equipment;
    • Costs related to damaging the environment;
    • Costs associated with the fire investigation and legal fees;
    • Costs of false alarms (loss of productivity and potential fines from the fire and rescue services); and
    • Loss of revenue or profit related to a bad business reputation and unmotivated staff.

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    How often should fire safety training be provided?

    Fire safety training is key to maintaining a culture of preventing, managing, and handling fire risks. You may need several levels of training within your organisation as those with an increased responsibility e.g. fire wardens, will need more comprehensive training. Those with the ultimate duty of care over everyone in the workplace could also receive more detailed responsible person training. Everyone within the workplace should at minimum, initially receive training on:

    • What to do when a fire is discovered;
    • How to raise the alarm;
    • What to do if you hear the fire alarm;
    • Where the assembly points are located;
    • Who contacts the emergency services;
    • Firefighting policy; and
    • How to know it is safe to re-enter the building.

    Fire safety training is a legal obligation. The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 requires you to provide whatever training is necessary to ensure, as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of your employees. The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order (RRFSO) 2005 specifies this further, requiring training at the time when they are first employed, when being exposed to new or increased risks and should be repeated periodically.

    With all new starters initial fire safety training induction should be supplied, refresher training can take the form of a fire drill, which is already required to take place at least annually and should cover all shift patterns. If there are more significant risks or increased responsibilities, then more substantial training will be required.

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    What should fire warden training include?

    Having fire wardens in place is not only beneficial in terms of having appointed assists in an evacuation, but also trained fire wardens will have a greater ability to hazard spot, making them an important means to proactively manage fire safety. This in turn can help to promote an enhanced fire safety culture in the workplace. 

    As fire wardens take on more responsibility, they require comprehensive training to ensure that they are well equipped to carry out their duties. Typically, fire warden training will include the following elements:

    • The importance of fire safety and its potential devastating effects;
    • Causes of fire;
    • The physics of fire and smoke spread;
    • Fire prevention;
    • Legislation and legal responsibilities;
    • The financial cost of fire;
    • Fire warden responsibilities both proactive in prompting fire safety and reactive in the event of an evacuation;
    • The means of escape for disabled person and the Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan process (PEEP), as well as their role in checking refuge points to ensure everyone has a means of evacuation;
    • Your specific companies ’emergency procedures and building evacuation procedures’; and
    • Firefighting and extinguisher use, theory training is acceptable.  

    Assurity Consulting offers fire warden training that is tailored to your requirements and uses your building specific policies and procedures. The session is usually delivered in house and combines classroom and practical exercises to make sure that the delegates have a full understanding of their important role as a fire warden.

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    What are the maintenance requirements and frequencies for electrical vehicle charging units?

    As with all electrical equipment, it is important to make sure that regular maintenance and servicing is carried out in line with the manufacturer’s/ installer’s recommendations. In most cases it is recommended that at least annual maintenance and servicing is carried out by a competent contractor. If the electrical vehicle charging unit/s are being used frequently, then increased maintenance and servicing regimes may need to be adopted.

    In addition to regular maintenance and servicing, PAS 79-1:2020states that electrical vehicle charging units should be subject to periodic inspection and testing, like all other fixed electrical installations. This should take place on your electrical vehicle charging unit/s every 5 years.

    As the electrical vehicle charging unit is likely to have parts that are regularly moved around, this piece of equipment should receive regular portable appliance testing (PAT) in line with your organisations policy for managing electrical equipment. It is suggested that annual PAT is suitable for this type of equipment.

    Most electrical vehicle charging units have an RCD button fitted. This should be tested every 6 months, It is similar to an emergency light flick test. 

    It is good practice to carry out regular visual inspections (daily/weekly – dependent on usage, number of units and potential likelihood of damage) of your electrical vehicle charging unit/s. This will make sure that the unit is in good condition and that it is working correctly, and allow you to identify any potential faults and proactively manage them, before they become an issue.

    All maintenance tasks, tests and visual inspections should be formally documented.

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    Where should I place fire extinguishers in my building?

    Fire extinguishers play a vital role in any fire protection plan in all environments. They are a first aid response to fire and can help to prevent catastrophic damage to property and loss of life. The siting of fire extinguishers is therefore extremely important.

    Fire extinguishers must be always available for immediate use. They should be permanently mounted on suitable brackets; floor stands or in extinguisher cabinets. They must be sited in visible places so that they can be easily seen by those following escape routes; this could be near to corridors, room exits, lobbies, stairwells, and landings. They are often also located near fire alarm call points so that someone can raise the alarm and use the extinguisher should a fire obstruct their safe escape from the building.

    You must also consider suitable instructional signage. This signage will ensure that if someone is going to use an extinguisher, that they are aware of the type of fire that the extinguisher is suitable for and how they should use it.

    Typically, we would find carbon dioxide and water fire extinguishers in office workplaces, however if you have more complex systems (for example a laboratory or a kitchen) in your building, you may consider other types of fire extinguishers. Specialist extinguishers such as wet chemical and powder extinguishers must be sited within easy reach of the specific hazard, for example a deep fat fryer.

    In conclusion, the minimum number of fire extinguishers provided should be one water and one carbon dioxide for every 200 meters of floor area, positioned close to any high-risk areas, in line of sight with an exit and positioned adjacent to fire alarm call points.

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    I have had a Fire Safety Certificate carried out for my premises in the past, is it still valid, and do I still need to have a fire risk assessment completed?

    Under the Fire Precautions Act 1971, the Fire Brigade or Local Authority would inspect certain types of premises and issue a Fire Safety Certificate. The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RR(FS)O) came into force on 1st October 2006. It simplified and reformed several pieces of previous fire safety related legislations. As part of this reform, the need to have Fire Safety Certificates was repealed. The Fire Safety Certificates that were created, are no longer valid and no longer have any legal status. However, they are still a very useful source of information.  

    Yes, a Fire Risk Assessment still needs to be carried out for your premises. The current legislation, the RR(F)SO), stipulated under Article 9 that it is a legal requirement for all non-domestic premises to have a Fire Risk Assessment performed by a competent person to identify, manage and reduce the risk of fire. It is recommended that any old Fire Safety Certificates are kept, as they may contain useful information such as how a building fire would be tackled and may hold information to assist in the creation of a Fire Risk Assessment.

    The historic approach of compiling Fire Safety Certificates was a reactive way of managing fire safety and considering how a building fire would be tackled. In comparison, the modern approach of conducting Fire Risk Assessments is a proactive way of managing fire safety and reducing the chance of a fire occurring in the first place.

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    What can I do to make sure of a quick and safe evacuation for staff with a disability in my building?

    It is the responsibility of the appointed responsible person, under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order, for the building to provide a fire risk assessment that includes reference to any vulnerable persons on site.

    The responsible person should also have a separate emergency evacuation plan for all people likely to be in the premises. This should include any persons who require assistance in the form of a personal emergency evacuation plan (PEEP). This type of evacuation plan should be specific to the individual and provide a suitable plan for the safe evacuation of this persons whilst not relying upon the intervention of the Fire and Rescue Service to make it work. You should have a PEEP template available, even if not currently applicable, should this situation change, or a person were to visit your building which this would apply to.

    There may be individuals with visual or hearing impairments for which the common sounders or audible alarm systems may not be a sufficient means of raising the alarm. In this circumstance further aids such as personal trembler alarms for visual impairments or flashing beacons for hearing impairments may be required. 

    A buddy system is also an effective means of raising the alarm and aiding with evacuation in which another member of staff is allocated the task of helping the vulnerable individual. Tactile/braille signs may also be used so long as the person can easily locate the signage to read the braille, though these are less common.

    Personnel with mobility impairments may require further assistance for safe evacuation and temporary PEEPs may need to be implemented for staff with non-permanent impairments, such as a person with a broken leg, or expectant mothers for example. Evacuation lifts that will remain in operation once the fire alarm has been raised are a common means, as are evacuation chairs.

    Refuge points are also popular in buildings whereby the individual can wait safely in a fire protected area (up to 30-minute protection) which offer a temporary place of relative safety for the individual to await assistance. Again, the support of a buddy system will be the best way to achieve safe evacuation.

    It is important to note that a refuge point is NOT a place where a vulnerable person should be left to be rescued by the Fire & Rescue service as it is their duty to preserve life and property. The fire risk assessment/emergency evacuation plan should be sufficient enough for ALL people to be safely evacuated from the premises.

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    What is a fire strategy and should I have one?

    A fire strategy is a document that sets the basis for fire safety control measures from the design of a building. It demonstrates compliance with Building Regulations, covering means of fire detection, warning and escape, the internal fire spread (linings and structure), the external fire spread as well as accessibility and facilities provided for the fire service. Typically, a fire strategy will be produced at the design stage in conjunction with architectural plans and is required as part of a building control submission. The document will also provide details of occupancy levels permitted within the building against the provision of horizontal and vertical means of escape and levels of compartmentation.

    The requirement for a fire strategy is not only applicable to new-builds, but they can also be produced for existing buildings. These are often known as ‘retrospective fire strategies’. Fire strategies of this kind are often carried out in accordance with PAS 911. This document provides guidance on the recommended process to follow and provides guidance on property protection, environmental factors, the safety of life and business continuity.

    A fire strategy document forms an essential basis on which to conduct the Fire Risk Assessment. This will allow the ‘responsible person’ to plan, manage and co-ordinate the appropriate fire safety precautions to minimise the risk of fire and ensure the safety of occupants.

    Fire strategies can only be produced by qualified and competent fire engineers. Further detail can be found on The Institute of Fire Engineers (IFE) website under ‘find a UK fire engineer’ directory.

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    How often should fire evacuation drills be carried out?

    The guidance states that fire drills should be carried out at least annually to make sure that all occupants are aware of building evacuation procedures. However, should you have staff within the building working of a night, you will need to carry out fire drills to make sure that all shift patterns are covered at least annually.

    For example, if the 4th floor worked on night shift patterns of 06:00-12:00 and 12:00-06:00, then more frequent fire drills will need to be carried out to capture the staff working in each shift at least annually. A fire drill during the day will also need to be carried out (at least annually) to capture staff working in normal core working hours.

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    Do I have to review my fire risk assessment and how often?

    The Health and Safety at Work Act section 2(3) and the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 article 9, both require employers with 5 or more employees to provide a written risk assessment for significant risks and review them those risks.

    The responsible person for the premises (the individual identified as having control over part or all of the premises) must regularly review and keep it up to date.

    Your fire risk assessment must be reviewed if:

    • It may no longer be valid.
    • There have been changes made to the area/s under your control e.g. structural changes, new installations.
    • You have had a fire or near miss.
    • Findings from a fire evacuation drill identify the need for a change.

    There has been a change to the type of work being done on the premises that may affect areas under your control e.g. introduced a manufacturing process to an office environment.

    Changes to the types of persons employed, you are now employing workers with disabilities or young workers e.g. introduced staff covered under the equality act.

    Your independent fire risk assessor would advise a review date. It is good practice to fully review a Fire Risk Assessment every two years if this has not needed to be done in the interim.

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    How do I review my fire risk assessment?

    The first step to reviewing your fire risk assessment is to look at your current document and think about these questions: 

    • Is it still applicable to my organisation? 

    • Am I doing anything different that could have changed the fire risk of my building since the document was produced?

    • Have the occupancy levels or building layout changed?

    • What are my fire management inspections, checks and maintenance works telling me?

    • Are there any aspects of your current arrangements you would like to change?

    If any changes have occurred, you need to satisfy yourself that either they do not materially affect your current fire management, or if they do, what effect they have. 

    We offer our customers a full fire risk assessment review, which provides them with an independent view of what actions they need to take to comply with legislation and reduce the chance, and impact, of any fires that may occur.

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    As a responsible person, how do I manage fire safety within the workplace?

    Effective management alongside appropriate staff training is fundamental in fire safety.

    The responsible person’s duty is not only ensuring that a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment is implemented, but also that there are adequate fire safety measures in place. Examples of this include having suitable evacuation procedures, control measures for those more likely to be at risk in the event of a fire, to maintaining fire detection and alarm systems as well as fire fighting equipment i.e. fire extinguishers, sprinklers, suppression systems etc.

    The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRFSO) imposes extensive duties which can only be effectively discharged by means of a comprehensive fire safety management system. This should include arrangements for planning, organising, control, monitoring and review of your fire systems in place.

    As the responsible person, it is your duty to ensure that all employees have undergone sufficient training. All staff members, including temporary/part-time, contractors and visitors must be familiar with the actions to be taken in the event of a fire or if the fire alarm were to sound. This can be done through inductions, training courses and fire evacuation drills. It is important that individuals are aware of their part to play, should it be calling the fire services, assisting others to evacuate, making sure all those in their area have safely evacuated, managing the assembly point, to making sure no-one re-enters the property until it is safe to do so.  Delegation of roles is key to managing fire safety. 

    Pro-active management, such as frequent inspections and checks of the workplace, demonstrates good fire safety control. Early identification of fire doors being propped open, defects in fire fighting equipment, or regular storage of combustibles within fire escape routes will also reduce the risk of fire and/or fire spread within the workplace.

    It is important that all current policies and procedures in place are regularly reviewed to meet any changes in circumstances but also to implement improvements.

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    What fire safety training should be provided for staff?

    It is the responsibility of the employer to ensure that their staff have had adequate training in order to ensure they know what they need to do in the event of a fire. Training should be provided on the first day of the induction stage with further training given throughout the length of employment to ensure that knowledge is refreshed and the information is correct. This is outlined in the British Standard BS9999:2017 Annex Q. Refresher training should be at least annually but if there is a higher turnover of staff or the risk of fire is more significant this frequency should be increased.

    The level of training required should be dependant on the occupant's roles and responsibility. For example, a fire safety officer and fire warden would require more training than general office staff as they have greater fire responsibilities in the event of an evacuation. Fire evacuation drill’s training may potentially be considered sufficient refresher training for general office staff and fire wardens depending on the risk profile.       

    Things to include in fire awareness training should include the following: 

    • What to do when a fire is discovered
    • How to raise the alarm
    • What to do if you hear the fire alarm
    • Where the assembly points are located
    • Who contacts the emergency services
    • Firefighting policy
    • How to know it is safe to re-enter the building

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