Understanding Roles and Fire Safety Responsibilities

House Plan

Fire safety encompasses a broad spectrum of considerations, yet the question remains: who holds the responsibility for ensuring fire safety? You may have heard the term ‘responsible person’ or even ‘duty holder’, but what do these terms even mean?

The terms “responsible person” and “duty holder” are often used interchangeably when talking about fire safety. However, there is a subtle difference between the two terms.


Who is the responsible person?

The role of the Responsible Person may apply to you under the following circumstances:

  1. If you are the employer and exercise any level of control over the workplace. This includes scenarios where:
  • You operate the company
  • The business is family-owned
  • You are self-employed

Additionally, you could potentially assume the role of the Responsible Person if:

  1. You are not the employer, yet you exert some measure of control over the premises. This particularly applies in cases where there is no conventional employer-employee relationship or when volunteers are involved. Examples of such situations include:
  • Managing a village hall
  • Running a charity shop
  1. You own a commercial premise that is not subject to legal control by another party. This encompasses situations where the premises are in a derelict state, and no other entity has legal responsibility for them.

It’s also important to consider your role as the Responsible Person within a residential premises. You would be considered the Responsible Person if:

  • You own the building (only in relation to the non-domestic parts)
  • You have control over the premises

If any of these examples resonate with your role and responsibilities, you may be identified as the Responsible Person.


Who is the duty holder?

In the event that you’ve confirmed that you do not occupy the role of the Responsible Person, it’s worth considering whether you hold the position of a Duty Holder, entailing certain responsibilities under the Fire Safety Order. This applies if you wield a degree of influence within the premises.

You are regarded as having authority over a premise if you are bound by a contract or tenancy agreement that designates you as responsible for:

  • The maintenance or repair of the premises themselves or any components within or upon them
  • The safety of the premises

Examples of individuals who may assume the role of Duty Holder encompass a range of roles, including but not restricted to:

  • Fire Risk Assessor
  • Fire Alarm Engineer
  • Managing Agent
  • Duty Manager

If any of these scenarios mirror your role, you may assume the role of a Duty Holder.


Premises of Shared Nature

In cases where premises are shared, the likelihood exists for multiple Responsible Persons and/or Duty Holders.

Regarding the non-domestic portions of the premises, the Responsible Person could potentially be the landlord, freeholder, or managing agent.

Should you occupy the role of a Responsible Person and/or Duty Holder within shared premises, collaboration and coordination with other Responsible Persons and Duty Holders are essential to align with the Fire Safety Order’s mandates. This could involve activities such as sharing information about fire safety risks among yourselves.


Professional Advice

Given the complexities and legal implications of fire safety responsibilities, seeking professional advice is highly recommended. Fire safety regulations can vary based on the specific nature of premises and roles. Consulting with fire safety experts or legal professionals can provide clarity and guidance in fulfilling your responsibilities effectively and in compliance with the law.

For more information visit Check your fire safety responsibilities under the Fire Safety Order – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)