There are 2 morals to this story. First of all just because you use an external Fire Risk Assessor doesn't remove your responsibility. Secondly Fire risk assessor selection, make sure you appoint the right person, it could cost someone their life.
There has been a noted interest in fire risk assessing by enforcement officers when visiting premises and checking the quality of the assessment. There is certainly more of an appetite to prosecute those responsible for the creation of poor fire risk assessments and the Landlords/employers who unwittingly endorse them.
A recent example of this was in Southampton in June 2021 where both the fire risk assessor company Director and the managing agent from the property management company were both prosecuted for the provision of an inadequate fire risk assessment.
The fire risk assessor was given a suspended prison sentence and fines for not conducting basic checks in a fully occupied flat such as lifting ceiling tiles or even opening riser cupboards at a three-storey building.
Findings by the enforcement authorities found that the residential block which was operating a stay put policy, had no apparent fire stopping and several breaches within the compartment walls such as electrical wiring which would allow smoke and fire to travel into the communal escape routes and to other parts of the building.
It should be noted that these prosecutions came following visits from enforcement officers and not because of a post fire investigation.
The property management company who contracted the fire risk assessor for the job was subsequently fined £10,000 with additional £6000 in legal costs.
This is just one example in an organisation who placed trust in a fire risk assessment company to provide an adequate fire risk assessment but who gave false assurances.
Employing companies with accreditations certainly allows for some defence in due diligence, however, it is still really important to check the quality of the work upon its receipt through your own company.
It is also good practice to ensure that you check the individual assessor’s qualifications, experience and whether they themselves are on an accredited register, not just the company. This then provides additional reassurance that their individual competency has been third party verified.
As for the findings of an assessment, ask yourself and the assessor what their findings are benchmarked in accordance with. Always query when there is a part of your premises that does not appear to be covered by the fire risk assessment and most importantly, clearly define the scope of what the assessment involves.
When you are looking at employing an assessor, never be afraid to ask for examples of previous work of a similar property that you can observe and compare to. Ask them how long they would take at the property to give you a good idea of how much time they will make to ensure everything has been captured.