The primary purpose of a Fire Risk Assessment is to ensure the safety of the occupants of a building. The person in charge of the building is responsible for ensuring that all fire risks are properly documented and monitored.

What is a Fire Risk Assessment?

A Fire Risk Assessment, in short, is a review taken of a building with the purpose of assessing it for hazards that pose a fire risk and then to wherever possible address these risks so as to either eliminate them or reduce the risks to an acceptable level – this being a requirement under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

Legal Guidelines

There are various legal guidelines to consider when undertaking a Fire Risk Assessment. The first of these guidelines are that the Risk Assessment must be reviewed on a regular basis, in detail. The criteria for when a Fire Risk Assessment should be reviewed is –

  • Every 12 months after the original assessment has been completed.
  • 5 years after the original assessment has been completed, a new Fire Risk Assessment should be conducted.
  • A new assessment must be completed if the purpose or use of the building changes.
  • If there is a substantial change in the occupants and type of occupants.
  • If the physical structure of the building, such as the layout, changes.

There are two main parts to a Fire Risk Assessment, one the actual review that will assess the fire safety of the property against set criteria, and two a list of requirements that require action in order for the building to comply with fire safety measures – the Fire Safety Action Plan. It is essential that this list of actions be completed as they are designed to ensure the overall safety of the building and its occupants.

Who is responsible for the Fire Risk Assessment?

Every building, whether it be a block of flats or a business premises, is required to designate a ‘Responsible Person’ (Duty Holder). The designated responsible person is in charge of ensuring the building maintains an acceptable standard of fire safety. The “Responsible Person” needs to make sure that a valid fire risk assessment is completed on the building.

The designated person in charge of fire safety is typically the same across buildings with similar uses, for example, small business owners are usually responsible unless another member of the team is selected, in tower blocks and flat buildings the ‘Responsible Person’ is normally the managing agent or landlord, however a member of the Residents’ Association can also be nominated.

In addition, it is also important to note that in residential buildings, such as tower blocks and flat buildings, the ‘Responsible Person’ is only concerned with ensuring the safety of communal areas including stairwells and corridors – Residents are responsible for ensuring the fire safety of their homes.

What is reviewed in the assessment?

A Fire Risk Assessment should be extremely thorough and assess the building across a comprehensive range of safety criteria. However, the level of detail required in the assessment is largely dictated by the overall complexity of the building, for example a small single compartment shop will likely have a less complex assessment.

Despite the uniqueness in complexity and criteria of every Fire Risk Assessment, there are a number of general criteria that must be considered by the assessor, these are as a guide –

  • The construction, layout, and purpose of the building.
  • The type and number of the building’s occupants as well as any residents that could be vulnerable.
  • Any electrical equipment that could be a potential ignition source.
  • Whether or not the building has a history of loss due to fire.
  • Potential defense criteria against arson.
  • Smoking areas and measures that have been taking to prevent fires caused by smoking.
  • Installed and portable heating devices that pose a potential fire hazard.
  • Any fire hazards that are introduced by third party contractors or building work.
  • Ensuring that general housekeeping is in place and key areas are kept clear of any materials that are potentially combustible.
  • The layout and maintenance of escape routes.
  • The safe storage of flammable and dangerous chemicals and liquids.
  • Ensuring that emergency lighting has been installs and is operational.
  • Ensuring that fire limiting measures are in place – this includes operational sprinklers and fire properly installed fire doors.
  • Checking that fire alarms of operational.
  • Checking the correct use and placement of fire safety signs.
  • Appropriate fire extinguishers have been placed in the correct locations.
  • Whether or not there is evacuation drills and fire safety training on a regular basis.
  • Who manages the building’s fire safety and how well it is done.
  • Proper records and documentation are being kept on fire safety measures.
  • Correct testing procedures and maintenance are in place for fire safety systems.

Who can conduct a Fire Risk Assessment?

A Fire Risk Assessment can be conducted by any ‘competent individual’. The competence of an individual conducting the assessment is based upon their technical competency (qualifications) and experience in adequately assessing the building against all the criteria mentioned in the previous section etc. Additionally, the person that is completing the assessment needs to be able to record all significant findings clearly and in detail, develop a Fire Safety Action Plan including necessary changes and adequately record these actions in writing, implement that action plan if necessary, and be able to continuously update the Fire Risk Assessment.

A professional fire risk assessor undergoes lots of detailed training and is fully versed in all of the most recent guidelines and legal requirements, including how they should be applied to different kinds of buildings. Watson and Watson provide a Risk Assessment training programs in addition to performing Fire Risk Assessments themselves to ensure that your building is properly assessed.

What are the consequences for not having a Fire Risk Assessment?

The consequences for not having an up-to-date Fire Risk Assessment vary on a case-by-case basis. In some cases, the offender can face severe fines whilst in others the offender can even face a prison sentence as well, this also being balanced against the potential loss of life! Therefore, it is essential that a building at least meets all the specified requirements, and the fire safety of the building is continuously monitored.

In order to properly ensure the adequacy of building’s fire safety measures we recommend using a professionally trained fire risk assessor to consult and complete the assessment with. This will ensure that no important factors are missed, and you can ensure that the building and occupants that you are responsible for are safe.

For further reading/information please reference the Fire Prevention in the Workplace or Contact Watson and Watson today to learn more about our Fire Risk Assessment consultancy services. Please call us on 01623 753 654 or send us an email for more information.

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