Fire Risk Assessment

What is a Fire Risk Assessment?

A fire risk assessment is an organised and methodical look at your premises, the activities carried on there and the likelihood that a fire could start and cause harm to those in and around the premises. (Definition from HM Guide to Fire Risk Assessment in Sleeping Accommodation)

The aims of the fire risk assessment are:

  • To identify the fire hazards.
  • To reduce the risk of those hazards causing harm to as low as reasonably practicable.
  • To decide what physical fire precautions and management arrangements are necessary to ensure the safety of people in your premises if a fire does start.

Unlike most safety issues within a holiday cottage, fire has the potential to injure or kill large numbers of people very quickly so should be given high priority by property owners.

After the initial Fire Risk Assessment

It will be necessary to maintain fire protection measures within the property. For example, by maintaining and testing smoke alarms or having fire extinguishers serviced. The fire risk assessment must also be reviewed regularly to ensure it is still relevant.

The Law

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 came into effect in October 2006. It means that owners of self-catering holiday properties must carry out a Fire Risk Assessment.

This law isn't confined to holiday properties, it applies to all industries and the government introduced a number of industry specific guides to help owners of businesses to comply with the new law. Most of these guides were published in 2006 in time for when the law came into effect, but others did not appear until 2007. Notably, the guide for owners of holiday lets, Do You Have Paying Guests did not get published until November 2008. Arguably, for two years this left the self-catering sector in a state of confusion about what the law required and suggested that perhaps this industry had been rather overlooked.

Do You Have Paying Guests?

This 18 page booklet is designed to help holiday cottage owners to carry out their own Fire Risk Assessment. Well meaning as it is, it does not provide a great deal of information. It does outline the key concepts and gives a basic overview of what needs to be done. However, it is very short on detail and the discussion of actual risks is minimal. Therefore many people using it, look at their property and simply conclude that there is no risk. Clearly this is not the case and we aim to add more detailed explanation and examples throughout this website.

Get your own PDF copy of Do You Have Paying Guests

Key risk assessment points taken from Do You Have Paying Guests

  1. Risk varies. It does not lend itself to being managed in just one ‘right’ way. No two properties are the same and so, adequately managing the risk from fire means considering a bespoke approach, based on the individual circumstances of your premises. That is why the government believe that, in most cases, it is the owners who are the best placed to consider and address the risks, using their common sense supplemented, if necessary, with some specific technical advice. (Page 2)
  2. As a rule, if your premises are significantly larger than a family home, or if they include long, unusual or complicated routes to an exit, you will probably need more detailed advice on the range of fire safety arrangements that you need to consider. (Page 3)
  3. A fire risk assessment is something you may be able to do yourself. In many cases, particularly in smaller premises which are also in use as a family home, it may be common sense. But, you do need to set aside the time to assess thoroughly the risks on your premises and then to put in place measures to minimise them. (Page 3)
  4. You can choose someone to help you carry out the risk assessment. This may be someone who you feel may have the necessary knowledge or expertise to carry out this task, including someone you know who has already carried out a fire risk assessment or a fire safety specialist whom you pay. If you do choose to get advice or help from others, you are still legally responsible for the risk assessment. (Page 4)
  5. The Fire Service cannot carry out the risk assessment for you. But, they may be able to give you information and advice on appropriate measures to protect your premises from fire. (Page 4)
  6. You must keep a written record of what you find in your risk assessment. (Page 5)
  7. Any flat, house, cottage, caravan or Glamping facility you rent out to others on a short-term arrangement or for a holiday is covered by the law. It is your responsibility to carry out a risk assessment and put in place measures to protect anyone staying there. (Page 12)
  8. If you don't do an assessment you are breaking the law, and you could be putting people’s lives at risk. The point of a risk assessment is to reduce the risks and plan how to keep people safe if there is a fire.
    If you fail to do this, you are putting your guests, your property and your business at risk. You may be inspected by the Fire Service, as part of its responsibility to enforce the law or, someone staying with you or working for you may report you to them if they feel at risk.(Page 12)
  9. If you are inspected by the Fire Service, they will want to know that you have carried out a risk assessment. Keeping a written record of your risk assessment is the most practical way to show that you have taken fire safety seriously. If the Fire Service don’t consider the measures you have taken or plan to take good enough to adequately protect people, you will have a chance to put things right. If you fail to do this, the Fire Service may serve a notice on you that means you must put in place better fire safety measures. Ultimately, they could take legal action against you and your business may be closed down. (Page 13)

Sleeping Accommodation

The government have also produced a larger guide to Fire Risk Assessment in Sleeping Accommodation. This goes way beyond holiday cottages and includes hotels, hostels and sheltered accommodation for example. At 148 pages this is a lengthy guide but it does contain a lot of useful information and studying it will be of benefit to anyone letting out multiple units, or a very large super cottage sleeping say more than 12 people.

Get your own PDF copy of Fire Risk Assessment for Sleeping Accommodation

Beware the Fire Risk Assessment Form from your Letting Agent

In a bid to help owners comply with the law, some agents have come up with their own risk assessment forms. These are often in the form of a checklist with questions such as, "have you got a smoke alarm". Remember, the law requires a bespoke approach because all properties are different. In the event of a problem, it would be very hard for you to argue that you have fully considered the risks in your property if you have used a basic pre-prepared form with a number of tick boxes. Some of them also contain very simplistic and misleading information.