If you manage a business or are responsible for a building then it is your legal duty to ensure a fire risk assessment has been carried out. This saves lives, protects property and business reputation and makes sound financial sense. It also means that you could face regulatory penalties, loss of custom, staffing issues and higher insurance premiums if you don’t comply with the legislation.
A fire risk assessment is an organised appraisal of your premises by a competent person to decide what measures need to be in place to keep people safe from the dangers of fire. This is a legal requirement in England and Wales under The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, Scotland with The Fire (Scotland) Regulations 2006 and Northern Ireland with The Fire (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2010.
The assessor will identify what potential hazards fire risk assessment in the UK exist within the premises – combustible materials, heat sources, ignition sources, persons at risk, escape routes and actions to be taken to reduce these risks. The assessment should be documented and an action plan set in place, if appropriate. This plan should specify what has been done, when and by whom.
The fire risk assessment should be reviewed regularly – significant changes to the premises or the way in which it is used should prompt a review of the assessment. A review should also be undertaken if the fire safety measures put in place are deemed to be ineffective or have been damaged, or the premises are subject to an alterations notice.
It is important that the fire risk assessment is written by a competent person. This is to ensure that the report meets the legal requirements and a professional level of service is achieved. A competent person should have knowledge of the current legislation and good practical experience in carrying out fire safety risk assessments. If you find you do not have the knowledge or time to undertake a fire risk assessment yourself then you should consider appointing a third party specialist like FireRite who provide this service with an NSI Gold BAFE SP205 accreditation backed by UKAS.
During the process of carrying out a fire risk assessment, the competent person should look at the number and capability of people residing or working in the premises, including contractors and visitors. It is particularly important to identify those persons who may be especially at risk of injury from a fire. This includes children, the elderly or those with disabilities.
A fire risk assessment should include a floor plan of the premises showing escape routes and what areas are restricted by enclosing walls or other obstructions. It should also show where combustible materials and ignition sources are located together. It is helpful to mark these on the floor plan with red circles for combustibles and blue crosses for heat or ignition sources. In smaller premises a simple noughts and crosses system can be used.