Employers and other responsible persons must ensure that there is a competent fire risk assessment undertaken for non-domestic premises under their control. The assessor can be an in-house staff member or an external contractor, but whoever undertakes the assessment must have suitable knowledge, skills and experience.
In most major fire tragedies in the last decade there has been a focus on the qualifications and experience of the assessor and, where applicable, the adequacy of the selection process operated by the client when choosing an external consultant.
A person is regarded as competent where they have sufficient training and experience or knowledge and other qualities to enable them to properly implement their role.
In the case of simple premises, e.g. where the fire risk assessor might be an employee of the occupier, it is possible that their attributes might be sufficient in conjunction with a study of suitable guidance documents. Even in such a simple premises, the fire risk assessor will need:
Complex premises will require a higher level of knowledge, understanding and experience on the part of the fire risk assessor. For such premises, there will be a need for the specific applied knowledge and skills of an appropriately qualified specialist. In such cases, evidence of specialist training and experience, membership of a professional body, or certification by a third party certification body, may assist in demonstrating competence. Other than in simple low risk premises, fire risk assessors, particularly those offering their services on a commercial basis, need an appropriate knowledge of:
Competence does not necessarily depend on the possession of specific qualifications, although such qualifications might contribute to the demonstration of competence. Knowledge can be obtained by academic study, training, working alongside others, short courses, continuing professional development or any combination of these.
In November 2020, in direct response to the Grenfell tragedy, the Fire Sector Federation (FSF) published a Code of Practice that details the defined level of competency appropriate for fire risk assessors who work on high-risk buildings such as residential tower blocks, hospitals, student accommodation, schools and other life safety critical buildings.
Accredited third party certification (ATPC) is regarded by the FSF as essential for fire risk assessors working on high-risk buildings.
Competence of fire risk assessors can be assured by:
In all cases, a fire risk assessor working on high-risk buildings should be registered with a professional body which has responsibility for maintaining ATPC compliance. Registers of persons or companies that are certificated or registered should be easily accessible to the public.
Third party certification schemes are not legally required for assessors, but using those which have this certification provides a high degree of protection for their clients by giving the reassurance that they are deemed competent. Given the status of the FSF guidance, when selecting a fire risk assessor for a high-risk building it is strongly advised to check for a current registration with ATPC and to check the detail of that registration for evidence of competency to work on the class of building for which you require an assessment.
ATPC provides peace of mind that suppliers have been independently verified, are regularly audited or certified and are competent to undertake the work needed. It also assures they are working to relevant standards and best practice.
Schemes are defined, administered and audited between professional trade bodies and experienced regulatory bodies such as UKAS and Ofqual. The regulatory body (or third party) monitors the robustness, relevance and validity or each scheme and will amend or update parameters as required.
For further information on third party accreditation check out the following article from the Fire Protection Association (FPA)
The Institute of Fire Engineers – https://www.ife.org.uk/Fire-Risk-Assessors-Register
The Institute of Fire Safety Managers – https://ifsm.org.uk/fire-risk-assessors/
Fire Risk Assessors Certification Scheme – https://www.warringtonfire.com/certified-companies/fracs-company
BAFE Fire Safety Register – https://bafesearch.secure.force.com/wb/wbCompanyListing?scheme=a03A0000003RpriIAC
The Institute of Fire Prevention Officers – https://ifpo.org.uk/fra-register/
Consider the following during the selection process:
If you are looking for a fire risk assessor to carry out a fire risk assessment get in touch. Our assessor is on the register of the Institute of Fire Engineers.