Taking responsibility

Being responsible is hard sometimes – we don’t always want to take responsibility. When it comes to fire safety though, if you’re deemed as being ‘the responsible person’ then it isn’t something you can hide away from.

If you’re running a factory or a restaurant, for example, it’s fairly obvious that you’ll be the ‘responsible person’. But, in your personal life, you might also find yourself being a ‘responsible person’ – perhaps as the chairman of an organisation which runs a community hall or the local sports group which has a club house, for instance.

Under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, anyone who has control of premises or anyone who has a degree of control over certain areas or systems may be a ‘responsible person’. It could be:

  • The employer for those parts of premises staff may go to.
  • The managing agent or owner for shared parts of premises or shared fire safety equipment such as fire-warning systems or sprinklers.
  • The occupier, such as self-employed people or voluntary organisations if they have any control.
  • Or any other person who has some control over a part of the premises.

If it becomes clear that you are, indeed, the ‘responsible person’, then you must make sure that you carry out a fire-risk assessment. Although the Government has set out some fairly easy-to-follow steps for doing this, you may well feel happier passing over the whole process to an expert, such as GOW Systems. Whoever you choose is referred to under the regulations as the ‘competent person’. It’s rather like hiring an accountant to sort out your figures for you – it gives you peace of mind that somebody who is qualified in that area has supported you.

But, you’re still not entirely passing the buck… You will still be responsible, in law, for meeting the Fire Safety order. Again, to use your accounts as an example – you might get an accountant to complete your tax return for you but you still have to sign it and you still take ultimate responsibility. Best to find a ‘competent person’ whom you trust then.

At GOW Systems, we have many years’ experience in arranging fire-risk assessments and people come to us because we are knowledgeable and trustworthy. If you don’t comply, we can suggest steps you’ll need to take to make that happen – whether it’s replacing your system or installing emergency lighting.

There doesn’t even need to be a fire for you to get into hot water – particularly if a failure places one or more people at risk of death or serious injury in case of fire.

A few years ago, a ‘responsible person’ was given a suspended custodial sentence after failing to comply with an enforcement notice, even after being granted two extensions of time. He owned a small business selling furniture, household electrical goods and flooring. The premises were inspected and routes to exits were found to be obstructed, a fire door was obstructed and deadlocked, there was inadequate signage and no emergency lighting. 

If you are the ‘responsible person’ or you think you might be – do give us a call for advice.