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The secret risk assessor - November 19

13 November 2019

Multi-occupancy buildings can be tricky when it comes to issues of responsibility, so this month, the secret risk assessor provides an insight to Article 22 of the Regulatory Reform .

PUBLICLY ACCESSIBLE buildings often consist of two or more companies operating under one roof, for example in a shopping centre, hotel with sub-let gymnasiums or spas or other multi-tenanted occupancies. And that tenuous link will bring me onto my topic of this month which is Article 22 of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order of 2005.

For those of you who don’t know your Articles off by heart, or haven’t got the time or the inclination to look them up, Article 22 is concerned with the requirement for suitable co-operation and co-ordination between different Responsible Person’s in multi-occupied buildings. It states the following:

Where two or more responsible persons share, or have duties in respect of, premises (whether on a temporary or a permanent basis) each such person must—

(a)co-operate with the other responsible person concerned so far as is necessary to enable them to comply with the requirements and prohibitions imposed on them by or under this Order;

(b)(taking into account the nature of his activities) take all reasonable steps to co-ordinate the measures he takes to comply with the requirements and prohibitions imposed on him by or under this Order with the measures the other responsible persons are taking to comply with the requirements and prohibitions imposed on them by or under this Order; and

(c)take all reasonable steps to inform the other responsible persons concerned of the risks to relevant persons arising out of or in connection with the conduct by him of his undertaking.

Let’s take a look at what that actually means in practice though. As a fire risk assessor, you may be employed, for example, by the managing agents of the shopping centre in order to undertake the fire risk assessment of those areas occupied by the landlord and the common escape routes. I have seen many reports that have caveated their work by stating that they have done exactly that, without accessing the individual tenants’ shops or units. But there are other considerations that your report should address and questions to be asked of your site contact:

  • Have all the individual tenants completed their own fire risk assessments and shared the findings with the landlord or managing agents who should retain records of all the assessments? 

  • Have the significant findings contained within each fire risk assessment been shared with the other tenants or shareholders? 

  • Are regular meetings with all tenants held to discuss the fire safety issues within the building as a whole?

  • Are regular fire drills undertaken for the entire building to include all building occupants if appropriate? 

  • Would it be deemed suitable for fire training to be delivered to all building occupants at the same time? In the example of a small building where companies occupy different floors but share the staircase and often even the welfare facilities then this would make perfect sense.

Then we need to consider the conditions of any leases that are in place. It may be the case that you are employed to undertake the fire risk assessment for a tenant in a multi-occupied building. If the lease is on a fully repairing basis then you will need to see evidence that your client is undertaken all routine fire safety maintenance along with electrical and gas testing etc. If, however the responsibility on maintenance is retained by the landlord or managing agent then I would recommend that you take all reasonable steps to confirm these checks are being undertaken. If you can-not get access to the records then you risk assessment should contain recommendations such as “It should be confirmed with the landlord that the annual maintenance of the fire extinguishers is being undertaken by a competent engineer”.

There will likely be a requirement to provide some standard of compartmentation between different user groups or at least to the protected corridors and stairways. I have often found that a polite smile will often gain access to offices/shops etc if I explain that I am doing the fire risk assessment for the landlord or another tenant within the building. As mentioned earlier, often fire risk assessors take their contract with an individual tenant a little too literally. If their contract is for an occupier of the fifth floor of the building then surely they should take all reasonable steps to assess the doors and openings onto the shared escape staircases, if the doors to other tenants are locked then ring the bell as ask permission to look at the fire door hinges, intumescent strips and cold smoke seals. While not necessarily the responsibility of their client to address any issues, it would definitely be something that they should co-operate and co-ordinate with the other building users over. The same could apply to gaining an understanding of the type of detection in other areas of the building or simply gaining an understanding of the hazards within different parts of the site. It is worth remembering that there is every chance that not all building users have bothered to undertake their own suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment.

The Secret Risk Assessor is a well-known risk assessor in the fire industry.