The role of a fire risk assessor is integral to the management of any building or public space, ensuring the safety of property and the lives of those in it
As a fire risk assessor you'll identify fire hazards and risks, record your findings and advise on fire prevention. You'll identify people at risk, as well as evaluate, remove or reduce the risks.
Fire risk assessors prepare emergency plans and provide training to all employees, updating and reviewing fire risk assessment regularly. You'll also be tasked with informing and supporting health and safety managers in a workplace or public place.
Not only do you have the potential as a fire risk assessor to prevent the loss of life and the cost of damage to property, fire risk assessment is a legal requirement for any place of work or business that gives access to members of the public.
Government guidelines state that it's the legal responsibility of an employer, owner, landlord, an occupier or anyone else with control of premises used for employment or public services to take responsibility for fire safety. Fire risk assessors work to strict guidelines set out by the government and fire safety experts, and must ensure that buildings and services are compliant with all regulations such as The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
As a fire risk assessor, you'll need to:
- work carefully to follow strict fire safety legislation and guidelines set by the government and fire and rescue services
- identify hazards and assess the potential risk of a fire breaking out in the building you're working in
- keep up to date with changes in the guidelines to fire safety by reading documents such as the Government Fire Safety Order
- work with others, such as fire services, buildings and facilities managers, surveyors, fire engineers and landlords to develop, amend and implement fire safety plans
- provide fire safety advice to clients, both verbally and in a detailed written report which can include a fire safety action plan
- take responsibility for your continuing professional development (CPD), to learn changes in regulation and developments in fire safety
- produce in-depth reports to show your findings from the assessment you've completed. These will mostly be written reports, but may require basic diagrammatic drawings and are likely to be recorded electronically
- deliver training on fire safety in some roles.
- Starting salaries for fire risk assessors are between £27,000 and £35,000.
- Experienced assessors can earn £35,000 to £45,000.
- Some work is advertised with a daily rate attached to it rather than an annual salary. This is usually in the region of £250 per day.
- Working for an employer, such as a local authority or housing association, usually includes a benefits package offering paid holiday and a pension scheme.
- If you work for a consultancy you can also expect a benefits package and an expensed work vehicle or car allowance.
Income figures are intended as a guide only.
Working hours are generally 9am-5pm, Monday to Friday. You'll need to travel around to different sites to carry out assessments, with the occasional overnight in order to reach client premises.
The work can be quite flexible, allowing you to manage your own time and workload. It's possible to work either full or part time.
If you work for a consultancy firm dealing with fire protection, you may be expected to work from home and not have an office base. Fire risk assessors working for an organisation will be based in the offices of their organisation.
Time to write up assessment reports is usually allocated within the working week.
What to expect
- The work allows you to travel around to different sites - both newly built and existing properties - and meet a variety of different people.
- You'll be out on site for a lot of time, but will need to work at a computer to complete detailed reports.
- You'll need to keep up-to-date with training and current regulations, and may need to go back to the same property to review the measures put in place after a certain period of time.
- Confidence is needed to advise building managers and occupants on the fire risk measures to put in place, and on training building occupants about fire safety.
- You'll need to be comfortable working independently on a site, but may also work in a small team if you're working on a larger property or project.
- Appropriate safety clothing is required when working on certain sites, but you'll usually be able to dress informally.
- Fire risk assessment roles are held by both men and women.
- There are currently quite a few vacancies in this area as a result of recent recommendations made in the Hackitt Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety.
Higher education isn't necessary but a degree in fire safety, building surveying or a health and safety related subject can help. Having a broader degree in a subject such as civil engineering can be helpful, although this isn't a specific requirement.
The majority of entrants need to have some kind of short vocational course relating to fire safety or risk assessment. The Institution of Fire Engineers (IFE) offers vocational qualifications which are recognised by employers throughout the UK (and internationally) in fire risk assessment, alongside other fire services courses. The IFE publishes competency criteria for fire risk assessors, and holds a register of approved fire risk assessors which you can join once you've met their criteria.
Some training courses are offered by The National Examining Board in Occupational Safety (NEBOSH), including the National Certificate in Fire Safety and Risk Management and an International Certificate in Fire Safety and Risk Management which can be used anywhere in the world by people who have responsibility for fire safety in the work place.
These courses can be studied independently, but are perhaps more likely to be studied on the job as candidates need to give evidence that they are able to apply their knowledge and understanding of fire safety in a real life context. Courses can be studied in a classroom at an accredited NEBOSH training provider or via distance learning. The course takes around five days to complete if taken as a block. Many advertised jobs for fire risk assessors ask for NEBOSH qualifications as a minimum requirement.
The Fire Protection Association (FPA) also offers a Certificate in Fire Risk Assessment which is aimed specifically at those who have little or no fire safety knowledge but have the responsibility to carry out fire risk assessments or risk improvements. This course takes five days to complete and is offered at locations across the UK.
Relevant experience is also very important. Experience with the fire service can be very valuable, as can experience managing health and safety more generally, for people or premises. Employers ask for knowledge of current relevant fire legislation and building regulations as a minimum.
Risk assessors operating on sites which are used by vulnerable people may also need to provide a DBS check to their employer to prove that their background is suitable to working in this environment.
You'll need to have:
- good attention to detail
- good verbal communication skills that enable you to communicate clearly and effectively with clients and colleagues
- good written communications skills for report writing
- strong quantitative and analytical skills
- technical knowledge of fire safety and building materials
- commercial focus with an ability to understand a client's risks and drivers
- IT skills including Microsoft Office, particularly Word, Outlook and Excel
- an ability to prioritise your workload to meet agreed deadlines
- excellent organisational skills
- an ability to work independently, using your own initiative
- technical understanding in areas such as fire dynamics, heat transfer and smoke behaviour principles in enclosed environments.
In many cases, a driving licence is required to carry out assessments at different sites.
Work experience in a similar area is very important. Gaining experience in an estates maintenance or management role, or in a safety management role is a good way in.
You may be able to secure work shadowing with a fire risk assessor by contacting them directly to ask whether it would be possible to observe an assessment. By doing this, you'll gain a better understanding of the work.
Advanced-level apprenticeships are available in fire and security work in the UK. An apprentice is likely to be involved in the planning and installation of fire detection and alarm systems - this would be through a technical apprenticeship linked to engineering and manufacturing. An apprenticeship offers valuable hands-on experience if you're hoping to work as a fire risk assessor in the future.
Fire risk assessors work for a variety of different employers, or can work self-employed in a consultancy capacity.
Many local authorities who manage a number of residential properties and other public spaces recruit their own fire risk assessor whereas a smaller business would hire the services of a fire risk assessor on a consultancy basis. Charitable organisations operating social housing schemes also recruit fire risk assessors.
Large housing associations or property management companies often employ fire risk assessors because of the volume of work that is needed in this area. Residential properties require the highest level of risk assessment because lives are most at risk from fire when people are sleeping. Fire risk assessors will often work at residential properties checking both the escape routes and the fire warning systems.
Assessors are sometimes also employed by heritage organisations such as The National Trust or English Heritage.
Some work for fire services, but also for construction companies - where fire risk assessors are required to assess the development of new sites to guarantee that they're built with fire safety in mind.
Look for job vacancies at the Institution of Fire Engineers.
You can also look to:
- non-specialist recruitment agencies
- general job sites, such as Jobsite or Indeed
- local authorities
- the NHS.
Continuing professional development (CPD) as a fire risk assessor is essential, and you must be willing to continue learning throughout your career. Legislation around fire safety can change as new factors come to light after major fire incidents, and more is learnt about how to prevent fire from breaking out again.
The IFE provides short training courses for fire risk assessors. All fire risk assessors should be familiar with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (England and Wales).
Fire risk assessors can also undertake training in dealing with particular building materials, such as asbestos, or in dealing with complex building or residential buildings which require a more complex assessment and evacuation plan to be developed.
Fire risk assessors can aim towards gaining recognition on the Nationally Accredited Fire Risk Assessors Register (NAFRAR) as part of the IFE.
Once you've gained experience as a fire risk assessor, you could progress to the role of a senior consultant or a manager. You could also progress into a fire engineer role, but would need to take further qualifications to do so.
Maintaining your professional development is essential for progression in this sector.