What is a fire risk assessment?

Basically, a fire risk assessment is a review of a building’s potential fire risks and recommendations to reduce or eliminate those risks. It’s an important part of managing a building and is a legal requirement – not having a fire risk assessment can carry heavy fines and in the event of a fire which leads to injury or death, can even incur a prison sentence.

Office Buildings

Who needs a fire risk assessment?

Any organisation with premises or property requires a fire risk assessment. This includes all business premises including those of non-profits or charities, blocks of flats and apartment buildings, holiday lets, and more. For a full list of every type of organisation and premises that require a fire risk assessment, click here.

Fire extinguisher getting checked

Who is responsible for a fire risk assessment?

A law known as the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, or Fire Safety Order, stipulates that the ‘responsible person’ of a building must make sure that a fire risk assessment is done. They must also ensure that any recommendations included in the fire risk assessment are followed and that all employees and site visitors are informed and trained in fire safety procedures.

Anybody with control over a building can be the responsible person. They could be:

  • An employer or business owner
  • The building owner
  • A landlord
  • A facilities manager or building manager

Some buildings could have more than one responsible person – in this case, they must work together to ensure that appropriate fire risk assessments are done and any recommendations followed.

Workers making fire risk assessment

Why is a fire risk assessment important?

A fire risk assessment is important because not only is it a legal obligation to do so, but it also reduces the risk of fire to the building and neighbouring buildings, preventing costly damages, and of course reduces the risk of injury or death. 

In the last year (September 2021 – September 2022) there were 13,965 fires in non-residential buildings, which equates to 37 fires per day. Many of these could have been easily avoided if they had up-to-date fire risk assessments, and the recommendations in said fire risk assessments were carried out effectively. By making sure the building is as safe as possible and that all employees are suitably trained, most fires can be prevented.

Fire alarm being pushed

What are the 5 steps of a fire risk assessment?

Every fire risk assessment is unique and will be specific to the building and type of business, but it will follow these five steps:

Identify the fire hazards

This is anything and everything that could potentially start a fire, including:

  • Electrical wiring
  • Electrical appliances
  • Heaters and lighting
  • Processes that generate heat e.g. welding or grinding
  • Waste from processes e.g. wood shavings, dust
  • Sparks and naked flames
  • Fuel sources e.g. gas bottles
  • Oxygen sources like oxygen bottles, air conditioning systems
  • Flammable materials like paper, wood, fabric, packaging, etc
  • Potential accelerants like oil, fuel, paint, varnish 
  • Cigarettes
  • Cooking

Identify people at risk

This includes any employees that are on site, plus any potential visitors and guests, anyone in the local area who could be affected by a fire, neighbours and others. Consider if there are people who could be more at risk than others, e.g. people who sleep on the property, children, elderly people, and those with disabilities or limited mobility. Some people might be more at risk too because of the work they are doing, e.g. if they work in a loud environment or wear ear defenders, they might not notice a fire alarm as quickly as others.

Worker moving gas bottle

Evaluate, remove or reduce the risks

Once the potential fire risks have been identified, the next step is to evaluate these risks and see what can be done to reduce them or eliminate them entirely. A good example of this could be keeping waste materials in suitable containers and not letting excess waste build-up, or storing flammable material far away from potential sources of ignition, e.g. having a smoking area a good distance away from LPG bottles.

Another part of this step is to identify ways that you can keep people safe and evacuate them efficiently if there is a fire, paying special attention to those who are more at risk. To complete this step, the following must be considered:

  • Have you assessed all fire risks?
  • What can be done to reduce or remove them?
  • Are there enough escape routes?
  • Are the escape routes properly signposted?
  • Does anything obstruct the escape routes?
  • Do you need to install smoke/fire alarms, fire exit signs, fire doors, or emergency lighting?
  • Do you have the correct fire extinguishers? Where are they located?
  • If there is a fire, who will contact the fire department

Record, plan and train

You should record all your findings from the previous steps and use this to create a plan that when adhered to can reduce the risk of fire, and ensure a swift and adequate evacuation in the event that there is a fire. This can include:

  • Designating a fire assembly point where everyone on site should go if the fire alarm goes off
  • Ensuring that everyone on site knows where the fire exits and escape routes are
  • Having regular tests of the fire alarm and regular fire drills
  • Making sure that all employees receive adequate training on the equipment they will be using at work
  • Having fire safety training for all employees

Review and update the fire risk assessment regularly

Regularly check to see if the fire risk assessment is still up to date. Suppose there are any changes in the building that could affect potential fire hazards, evacuation procedures or anything else, e.g. a change in the purpose of the building, more employees onsite, or a change in the products or equipment stored on-site. In that case, a new fire risk assessment may be required.

Fire Safety Person

How often should a fire risk assessment be done?

A fire risk assessment must be reviewed every 12 months or in the event of any changes detailed above. All businesses, no matter what their size, need to have their fire risk assessment recorded either on paper or in a digital format.

Can I do my own fire risk assessment?

All fire risk assessments need to be done by a ‘competent person’ according to the Fire Safety Order. A competent person is defined as being capable of doing a ‘suitable and sufficient’ assessment of the building. If you aren’t 100% sure of the responsibilities of performing your own fire risk assessment, then it’s best to hire a professional to do the job.

Optimum Safety has a whole team of professionals who can perform your fire risk assessment, making sure your building is safe and you are in full compliance with fire safety laws. To book your fire risk assessment or talk to us about your needs, get in touch with us here.

Published On: 2nd January 2024 / Categories: Health and Safety / Tags: , , /

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