Fire Risk Assessment. 1. Introduction. 2. Fire Risk Assessments

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1 Fire Risk Assessment 1. Introduction All businesses face the risk of fire. Identifying and managing fire hazards will ensure that the risk of injury or death of employees and other occupants or of damage to buildings or contents and interruption to the business is eliminated or reduced as far as possible. Fire remains potentially the most damaging, costly and disruptive event that any business has to face. Whilst insurance has an important role to play not all costs can be recovered from insurers. Thus managing the risk of fire will help to ensure the continued success of the business. The most important activity, the identification and management of the risk of fire, is best achieved by carrying out a Fire Risk Assessment (FRA) and is integral to the process of securing fire safety. The carrying out of a FRA will also ensure successful management of the risk of fire. 2. Fire Risk Assessments FRAs are nothing more than the application of existing risk assessment approach to the subject of fire. Whilst risk assessment may sound like a complicated and specialised task it can be likened to taking a "careful look" at current practices and procedures. The main steps of an FRA are as follows: Identification of: - Sources of Ignition - Source of Fuel - Sources of Oxygen Note: Whilst the air is always present other sources of oxygen such as gas cylinders and certain chemicals can greatly increase the risk of serious fire. Determining those at risk - Staff and employees - People not familiar with premises e.g. visitors, contractors - Vulnerable persons e.g. the disabled, lone workers etc Assessment and Actions - Assessment of the risk - Determination of the actions required Inform, Instruct, Train and Record - Prepare an emergency plan - Inform people affected - Train people - Make a record of findings Reviewing - FRAs should be reviewed and revised regularly Fire Risk Assessments Page 1 of 6 v

2 3. Key Action Steps Read the appropriate Guidance Document(s) Review / Carry out a Fire Risk Assessment Identify the Responsible Person Appoint a Competent Person' to help undertake preventative and protective measures Record the findings of your assessment Effectively communicate to employees the risks identified, together with the prevention and protective measures in place Maintain Fire Precautions Ensure fire protection systems are of good quality, fit for purpose and well maintained by third party certificated companies Regularly review the Fire Risk Assessment and revise it when necessary Identification The first step is to identify any possible fuels and the sources of ignition. Sources of fuel could include: The fabric of the building e.g. timber Substances used in the process e.g. cooking oils, paint and solvents etc Mains Gas or the bulk storage of LPG The most typical sources of ignition include: Electrical equipment such as extension leads and adaptors Faulty or damaged wiring or electrical equipment Heating devices and other electrical appliances Cooking stoves, ovens or ranges, fryers etc. Arson Heat sources such as light bulbs or heaters in close proximity to combustible materials The anti-smoking legislation has removed the risks associated with smoking materials such as matches and cigarette butts from inside buildings. However, it has not completely eliminated the risk since external smoking areas may present a risk, especially if they are positioned adjacent to buildings. 4. People at Risk Generally the persons most at risk will be the employees present in the building whenever the business is operating. It is also possible that there may be vulnerable persons such as the disabled, lone workers or pregnant women. Such persons will require special consideration e.g. how they are given notice of fire or their evacuation from the premises. However many businesses will have visitors from time to time and for some types of business e.g. retail premises there could be large numbers of customers present. On some occasions there could be other persons present such as contractors e.g. undertaking building maintenance, servicing equipment etc. Fire Risk Assessments Page 2 of 6 v

3 5. Assessment and Actions Once the various risks have been identified they will need to be assessed. Then it will be necessary to determine what action must be taken in order to remove the hazard or reduce the risk: Fire Protection: Install suitable equipment such as sprinklers or portable extinguishers Fire Detection e.g. an automatic fire detection system using heat, smoke or infra-red detection Raise the alarm and alert occupants e.g. manual call points or an automatic alarm Fire Fighting Measures (if appropriate) e.g. a sprinkler systems or portable extinguishers Ensure safe escape e.g. provision of suitable escape routes and exits including suitable fire signs and emergency lighting together with trained marshals Ensure that anything provided or supplied is suitable and effective e.g. alarms and extinguishers are maintained, marshals trained etc It will also be necessary to determine whether there is a risk of a fire spreading. The assessment will need to determine whether there is the potential for a fire to spread within the premises, to adjoining buildings or even to neighbouring property. Any means of controlling fire will have to address the issue of fire spread. 6. Detecting Fire and Raising the Alarm It will be necessary to determine whether a simple push button "call point" will be sufficient. Alternatively it may be necessary to install an automatic fire detection system. This may, in some circumstances, need to be linked to a remote monitoring station or raise the alarm with the fire and rescue services directly. 7. Fighting the fire All workplaces must be equipped with appropriate systems and equipment such as extinguishers, fire blankets, hose reels, automatic sprinkler systems etc as determined by the size, nature and use of the workplace and the activities undertaken. The systems adopted and equipment installed will also need to take into account the number of people present in the building. Some buildings will be fitted with sprinkler systems that operate automatically in the event of a fire. However, sprinkler systems are not installed in all buildings and fire fighting appliances may be limited to hose reels or more likely portable fire appliances i.e. extinguishers. All fire fighting equipment must be of good quality, fit for purpose and well maintained. This will require regular visual inspection to ensure they are in place but this must be supported by annual servicing. Fire Risk Assessments Page 3 of 6 v

4 8. Inform, Instruct, Train and Record Staff and employees need to be informed of the findings of the FRA. They should be informed of the risks that have been identified and the actions that will be taken to manage the risks. An emergency and evacuation plan will need to be prepared and employees informed of the actions to be taken in the event of a fire. Fire Marshals will need to be appointed and will need training in their duties whether that involves use of portable fire extinguishers or simply ensuring that the buildings are cleared of employees and other occupants in the event of an emergency. It will be necessary to devise a means of informing persons such as visitors and contractors of the action they must take in the event of a fire. This may rely on visitors being escorted at all times or induction briefings for contractors. 9. Ensuring safe escape It will be necessary to ensure that there are safe routes of escape from all parts of the building. These routes should lead to suitable fire exits through which people can leave the building and reach safety. There should be suitable assembly points located well away from the building to which people should go in order for roll calls to be carried out. The means of escape should be tested by means of routine fire drills, preferably unannounced to ensure that they are as realistic as possible. All routes to emergency exits and the doorways themselves must be kept clear at all times. 10. Maintaining what is provided Whatever is provided as a result of the FRA must be maintained. This includes: Alarms and detection systems Fire fighting equipment such as sprinklers and extinguishers Evacuation plans and procedures Escape routes and Fire Exits 11. Fire Marshals Such maintenance will require the setting up of a formal inspection and maintenance programmes and may require the selection and use of suitable competent sub-contractors. Systems and procedures will need to be written down and reviewed regularly. Fire Risk Assessments Page 4 of 6 v

5 12. Reviewing FRAs must be reviewed and revised on a regular basis, ideally at least annually, in order to ensure that they are up to date and remain relevant. Whenever there are changes in the premises or processes and procedures the FRA should be reviewed. For example a change in process that required the use of solvents in place of water based paints would significantly increase the fire risk. Similarly changes in the numbers of persons on site or the layout of the building could impact on fire safety. 13. Responsible Person The Responsible Person (RP) is someone who owns the premises or business or someone with control over the premises, business or activity. The RP should appoint one or more Competent Persons' to help comply with the conditions of the Fire Safety Order. Generally the employer will have the principal responsibility but others may also have an interest e.g. in multi tenanted buildings. Where there is more than one Responsible Person in the premises, they must take all reasonable steps to co-operate and work with each other. 14. Competent Person The role of the Competent Person is to assist in the undertaking of preventative and protective measures. They could be an employee or an external person/organisation. However, in either instance it will be important to ensure that the employee, person or organisation is competent. Competence is defined as being in possession of the necessary technical skills and practical expertise to discharge ones responsibilities. Competence would be demonstrated by being in possession of a qualification such as the National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health qualification "Fire Risk Safety Management Certificate". 15. Legislation As part of the Government's commitment to reduce death, injury and damage caused by fire, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) reviewed existing fire safety law; and made a number of changes through the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order (RRFSO). The Order finally received parliamentary approval on 7th June 2005, and came into force on 1st October The three main objectives were: To simplify, rationalise and consolidate the existing fire safety legislation into one set of regulations, reducing the burden on business and the overlap of enforcing authorities To align fire safety legislation with health & safety law and reduce prescriptive requirements e.g. abolishing Fire Certificates To firmly put the onus for fire safety for people on the owner/occupier/employer/landlord that is, the Responsible Person' Fire Risk Assessments Page 5 of 6 v

6 The focus of the RRFSO is on fire prevention and protection measures, and its greatest emphasis is on the FRA. In Scotland fire safety is governed by the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 and the Fire Safety (Scotland) Regulations 2006 which encompass the same regulatory approach as in England and Wales. In Northern Ireland there was consultation the Fire Safety Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2010 came into effect on 15th November Enforcement Fire authorities are the main enforcing authority (EA) in most cases and they will carry out inspections in order to determine compliance with legislation. Where a RP has failed to comply with the requirement of the RRFSO then the EA may issue and Enforcement Notice. This will set out the nature of the non-compliance and what needs to be done. Where there is a serious risk to life the EA may issue a Prohibition Notice and may demand alterations to the premises. This has the effect of requiring the RP to cease using the building or perhaps refrain from a particular activity. Except in the most serious cases, the fire authority will work with you and provide practical advice to help achieve a satisfactory level of fire safety. 17. Guidance Documents The Government has published guidance documents to giving advice on the carrying out of FRAs These cover - Offices & Shops, Factories & Warehouses, Theatres & Cinemas, Small & Medium Places of Assembly, Large Places of Assembly, Premises providing Sleeping Accommodation, Residential Care, Educational Premises, Healthcare Premises, Transport Premises & Facilities, Open Air Events, Animal Premises and Stables. The guidance can be downloaded from the Communities and Local Government website or by clicking on the relevant link above. Simple guidance here: Next Steps To find out more: View our Health and Safety tools and templates Attend our Fire Risk Assessment classroom course Review our on-site consultancy fire risk assessment services us at Fire Risk Assessments Page 6 of 6 v

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