Fire Risk Assessments, what you need to know.

A Fire Risk Assessment is an assessment that prepares us to be able to complete our emergency fire action plan, to know more about our premises, and to be able to train our staff, and protect our teams or residents. It is for many assessors, business owners and their employees, clearly a potential life saver, to be prepared in the case of fire and the ensuing evacuation. 

What are Fire Risk Assessments?

A fire risk assessment is a review undertaken of a building to assess its fire risk and to offer recommendations to make the building safer if needed. If there are less than five occupants regularly in the building, then it is not required for the assessment to be written down, even if that would be a wise step to confirm awareness.

What do you need to know when completing a Fire Risk Assessment? Here are the elements that you will need to consider:

  • emergency routes and exits.
  • fire detection and warning systems.
  • fire-fighting equipment.
  • the removal or safe storage of dangerous substances.
  • an emergency fire evacuation plan.
  • the needs of vulnerable people, for example the elderly, young children and those people with disabilities.
  • providing information to employees and other people on the premises
  • staff fire safety training.

In addition to these, consideration will also have to be given to the following, when carrying out the assessment,

  1. Identify the fire hazards.
  2. Identify people at risk.
  3. Evaluate, remove, or reduce risks.
  4. Record your findings, prepare an emergency fire-plan and provide training.
  5. Review and update the fire risk assessment regularly.

Are Fire Risk Assessments required annually?

Our recommendation is that the responsible person completes a fire risk assessment or a review of it at least once per year, but it can be sooner, if for example where there has been a significant change in the environment that is being assessed, any changes to either the property, or to legislation that has been updated. For lower risk properties this could be every 2 to 3 years.

Are Fire Risks Assessments legally binding?

A Fire Risk Assessment is a legal requirement. It is your duty to identify fire risks and hazards in your premises and to take appropriate action. The law states that a risk assessment must be ‘suitable and sufficient’, that it should show that: a proper check was made. That you asked who might be affected and you dealt with all the obvious significant risks and that you considered the number of people who could be involved.

As Fire Risk Assessments are a legal requirement. It is your duty to identify fire risks and hazards in your premises and take appropriate action.

How often is a Fire Risks Assessments required?

The recommendation is that the responsible person completes a fire risk assessment at least once per year or when there has been a significant change in the environment.

 You are responsible for fire safety in business or other non-domestic premises if you are:

  • an employer
  • the owner
  • the landlord
  • an occupier
  • anyone else with control of the premises, for example a facilities manager, building manager, managing agent or risk assessor

You are known as the ‘responsible person’. If there is more than one responsible person, you must work together to meet your responsibilities.

 As the responsible person you must:

  • carry out a fire risk assessment of the premises and review it regularly
  • tell staff or their representatives about the risks you have identified
  • put in place, and maintain, appropriate fire safety measures
  • plan for an emergency
  • provide staff information, fire safety instruction and training.

Who can undertake a Fire Risk Assessment?

You can do the Fire Fisk Assessment yourself with the help of standard fire safety risk assessment guides if you have the correct training and experience.

If you do not have the expertise or time to do the fire risk assessment yourself you need to appoint a ‘competent person’ to help, or to appoint a professional risk assessor.

Your local fire and rescue authority might be able to give you advice if you are not sure your risk assessment’s been carried out properly. However, they cannot carry out risk assessments for you.

However, the risks for getting it wrong can be severe, so, call in the experts.

How much does a Fire Risk Assessment cost?

The cost of a Fire Risk Assessment (FRA) will depend on several factors, which will include do I get a Fire Risk Assessor to do the job for me, to complete the survey and to update and maintain the records, or do I do the job myself, or nominate a competent person? The other factors that need to be considered is the size of the area to be assessed or any problems that someone who is not trained may miss, or not fully understand the significance.

Many companies may find it difficult to appoint a competent person, when their main role may take them away from the task in hand, or to defer the Fire Risk Assessment to another day. With a competent person as the Fire Risk Assessor, a new employee to the organisation may get fire training more rapidly, but perhaps not so effectively, as a professional could do. It is certain that one way or other there will be a cost centre to this significant legal requirement, it is also likely that in the case of fire, the saving could be significant both in the cost of human life and that of property and goods.

What is included in a Fire Risk Assessment?

The content of the fire risk assessment will be influenced by several factors, depending upon the nature and use of the building, where it is located if it is a shared premises and if is a building undergoing alterations or extensions.

Areas that need to be considered in almost all fire risk assessments are fire detection systems, emergency exits and routes (including evacuation plans), firefighting equipment and the availability of information and advice to the building’s occupants.

Issues such as the specific needs of vulnerable people and the safe storage of any dangerous substances must also be considered. However, these may not always be a relevant factor for the fire risk assessment depending on the use of the building

You must carry out regular checks to make sure that:

  • all fire alarm systems are working.
  • the emergency lighting is working.
  • you record any faults in systems and equipment.
  • all escape routes are open for use and the floor is in good condition.
  • all fire escapes can be opened easily.
  • automatic fire doors close correctly.
  • fire exit signs are in the right place.
  • emergency routes and exits.
  • fire detection and warning systems.
  • fire -fighting equipment.
  • the removal or safe storage of dangerous substances.
  • an emergency fire evacuation plan.
  • the needs of vulnerable people, for example the elderly, young children or people with disabilities.
  • providing information to employees and other people on the premises.
  • staff fire safety training.

Non-domestic premises are:

  • all workplaces and commercial premises.
  • all premises the public have access to.
  • the common areas of multi-occupied residential buildings.

What about shared premises?

In shared premises it is likely there will be more than one responsible person. You will need to co-ordinate your fire safety plans to make sure people on or around the premises are safe.                                                                                                                                      

For common or shared areas, the responsible person is the landlord, freeholder or managing agent.

What happens to the Fire Risk Assessment in regards to alterations, premises extensions and new buildings?

When building new premises or doing building work on existing premises, you must comply with building regulations. This includes designing fire safety into the proposed building or extension. A fire risk assessment must cover all areas of the building.

When did Fire Risk Assessments become law?

From 1st October 2006, The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 requires the Responsible Person (RP) of any non-domestic premises to carry out a fire risk assessment, including measures to reduce or eliminate the risk of fire, and identify persons at risk.

Having completed Fire Risk Assessment, what next?

You need to start converting your Risk Assessment to an Emergency Evacuation Action Plan, which is always well supported by a plan of the premises which will show all relevant details of fire doors, escape routes, fire fighting equipment, emergency lighting, staff training and fire assembly points.

Fire Safety and Evacuation Plans

Your plan must show how you have:

  • a clear passageway to all escape routes
  • clearly marked escape routes that are as short and direct as possible
  • enough exits and routes for all people to escape
  • emergency doors that open easily
  • emergency lighting where needed
  • training for all employees to know and use the escape routes
  • a safe meeting point for staff

People with mobility needs?

You should also make special arrangements for people with mobility needs for example make sure there are people to help wheelchair users get downstairs if there’s a fire.

Penalties and enforcement.

You could be fined or go to prison if you do not follow fire safety regulations. Local fire and rescue authorities inspect premises and can issue fire safety notices telling you about changes you need to make.

Need help with a Fire Risk Assessment?

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