Guidance for Fire Safety Managers

As fire safety experts, Fire Safety Solutions is committed to equipping fire safety managers with the tools and knowledge necessary to protect lives and property in the event of a fire. With this goal in mind, we have meticulously curated essential criteria tailored specifically for those entrusted with the critical responsibility of ensuring the safety of all individuals within and around buildings during fire incidents.

This comprehensive resource serves as a guidance, empowering fire safety managers to navigate complex scenarios effectively and mitigate fire risks. Our objective is clear: to provide invaluable direction that enables fire safety managers to uphold the highest standards of safety, safeguarding lives, property, and the environment.

The primary role of fire safety manager may also encompass broader responsibilities for managing fire risk to people, property, and the environment by overseeing building systems designed for fire protection.

It is essential to always consider these functions and this guidance in conjunction with statutory or regulatory obligations concerning fire safety in buildings, as well as relevant good practice recommendations outlined in British Standards and other approved codes of practice.

Guidelines for Effective Risk Management

While fire damage, injuries, and fatalities are commonly attributed to the failure of physical or procedural fire prevention or protection systems, the underlying cause of these failures often stems from inadequate or absent effective management systems.

Effective fire risk management necessitates the implementation of robust systems to ensure compliance with statutory and regulatory requirements, as well as general fire management protocols. These systems should be overseen by competent individuals and subjected to thorough inspection, testing, and maintenance. Both internal and external audit processes should be established to assess the adequacy and ongoing suitability of fire precautions.

The practice of fire risk management is dynamic and constantly evolving. Adopting an integrated or holistic approach to understanding and managing fire risks enables organizations to optimize their processes and achieve greater efficiency.

The Fire Sector Federation, responsible for the Fire Risk Assessment Competency Council, has released an Approved Code of Practice titled “A National Framework for Fire Risk Assessor Competency.” This code emphasises the importance of maintaining general fire precautions by competent personnel throughout the building’s lifespan, following risk identification and mitigation.

Furthermore, the Federation advocates for third-party accreditation or certification for individuals or organisations involved in delivering fire safety critical systems and services. While such certification may not be mandated by legislation, its benefits are recognised by the government, including its role in fire risk management system certification.

This document establishes competency standards for specific roles, such as fire risk management overseen by Fire Safety or Health and Safety Managers, and auditing fire management systems conducted by internal or external auditors, possibly representing a third-party certification body.

Continuous review by the Fire Sector Federation ensures that this guidance remains current and reflective of evolving perspectives and experiences within the fire community.

Responsibilities and Competencies of Fire Safety Managers

In compliance with UK legislation, fire risk assessments must be conducted in public and commercial buildings, as well as in the common areas of most residential buildings. However, merely conducting a comprehensive fire risk assessment does not guarantee the safety of occupants or the building itself from fire hazards.

To reinforce the fire risk assessment process, fire safety management systems are essential. These systems ensure that organisational policies align with the building’s fire safety strategy, incorporating maintenance procedures that promote fire prevention practices and sustain fire protection measures. They also facilitate due diligence in selecting services and contractors, aiming to maintain or enhance the building’s fire risk performance rather than diminish it.

Furthermore, significant findings from fire risk assessments must be promptly addressed and recorded, along with any adjustments made to the fire safety strategy or systems. It’s crucial to educate all individuals within the organisation and premises about fire prevention practices and fire protection awareness to enhance overall safety.

Given the broad reach of management systems within an organisation, fire safety management requires widespread adoption and distribution of responsibilities. Every individual, from top management to the newest employee, shares some level of responsibility for managing fire risk, depending on the organisation’s size and structure.

While this document does not serve as a comprehensive fire safety management guidebook, it provides relevant competency criteria for fire safety managers, which may eventually be integrated into the forthcoming Building Safety Manager role.

In many medium and large organisations, fire risk management is typically overseen by a single person or a small team. In the future, this role may be formalised and registered as part of the Building Safety Manager position. Therefore, this guide aims to facilitate a seamless transition to the Building Safety Manager role.

Individuals in fire safety management roles coordinate activities among senior managers, employees, contractors, and others to ensure the organisation maintains effective fire safety systems. Whether dedicated to this role or it’s an additional responsibility attached to an existing role (e.g., nominated director, facilities manager, health and safety manager, security manager), these individuals, referred to as fire safety managers, play a central role in the fire risk management process.

Fire Safety Manager Competency

Organisations, particularly those accountable for fire safety, should designate fire risk manager(s) who possess defined roles, responsibilities, and authority concerning fire risk management, regardless of other duties they may have.

In smaller organisations, a dedicated fire risk manager role might not be necessary, as fire safety needs may be straightforward, and duties are often handled by the owner or general manager.

For medium-sized organisations, the fire risk manager role is frequently combined with other responsibilities such as health and safety, facilities management, or security risk management. However, it’s crucial for organisations to recognise that a fire risk manager with multiple roles may not have all the required competencies in fire safety. In such cases, organisations may need to seek specialised fire safety and risk assessment expertise externally to address more complex fire safety needs.

In large organisations, especially those with extensive property portfolios, fire safety management is complex and ideally should be managed by a competent, dedicated fire risk manager or team.

The scope of the fire safety management system should be proportional to the level of risk associated with the organisation’s activities, with the competency of the fire safety manager contextualised to the organisation’s management system and reviewed as roles, responsibilities, or the organisation itself evolves.

Best practice dictates that organisations outline the competencies required for the fire safety management role, identify any skill gaps, and provide appropriate training to fulfil and maintain these competencies. Ongoing assessment and evaluation of individuals’ competency in the fire safety manager role are essential.

It’s worth noting that competence in fire safety management isn’t solely determined by possessing specific qualifications, although relevant qualifications contribute to demonstrating competence, particularly in areas such as knowledge and understanding.

A fire safety manager is typically tasked with overseeing the general fire precautions that support the fire safety strategy of a premise or building. This responsibility may encompass managing the risk assessment program, coordinating the planned preventative maintenance (PPM) program, which includes testing and maintaining fire detection and suppression equipment systems, providing training and education to others, and ensuring occupants and users of the premises are adequately prepared to respond to fire incidents.

However, in some organisations, fire safety managers may not directly carry out these activities themselves. Ultimately, senior management and the nominated Responsible Person retain accountability. Additionally, fire safety managers may receive support from other employees, specialists, and contractors.

Given the diverse tasks involved, fire safety managers must be competent in overseeing and supervising fire safety management activities. If they lack expertise in certain areas, such as fire risk assessment or quality assurance of fire protection work, they should seek assistance from other competent individuals. Therefore, it’s crucial for fire safety managers to understand their role in maintaining oversight, identifying, selecting, and appointing competent persons to ensure the required fire safety standards are met.

In general, fire safety managers require appropriate knowledge of:

• Principles and practice of fire risk management

• The context of the organisation

• Leadership skills

• Planning

• Support

• Operation

• Performance and Evaluation