Who is responsible?

It has been common place for fire safety professionals to point the finger of responsibility in the wrong direction when determining exactly who is responsible and this short article seeks to provide some clarification.

It is primarily the ‘responsible person’ on whom the Fire Safety Order imposes requirements and duties. Accordingly, it is important to consider, for every premises, who exactly constitutes the responsible person (or ‘R.P’).The answer to this can be found in Article 3 of the Fire Safety Order. For most premises with which readers will be involved, the definition will be relatively straightforward, since, in the case of a workplace, Article 3 defines the RP as ‘the employer’.

This will be the body corporate – the company or organization that employs people to work on the premises. It should be noted however that in the case of a prosecution for an offence under the Order, a director, manager, company secretary or similar officer of the company could be prosecuted as well as, or instead of, the body corporate if the offence had been committed with that person’s consent, connivance, or as a result of negligence.

The definition of workplace is very broad, although it excludes domestic premises. (Hence, domestic servants or home workers are not protected by the provisions of the Order). By definition, under the Order, a workplace means any premises, or parts of premises, made available to one or more employees.

This includes any place within premises to which an employee as access while at work. It also includes the means of access to or egress from the place of work (e.g. footpaths external to the building or common parts within premises of multiple occupation), other than public roads.

Although not defined within the RRFSO the term ‘Dutyholder’ is also common place and used in place of the term ‘responsible person’ although a dutyholder could be a number of different parties.