What is a Fire Risk Assessment?
A fire risk assessment is a process involving the methodical appraisal of the aspects that determine the hazard from fire, the likelihood that there will be a fire and the consequences if one were to occur.
A basic qualitative fire risk assessment based on Publicly Available Specification (PAS) 79 will suffice for most situations.
Whose duty is it to ensure a Fire Risk assessment is completed?
It is the duty of the “Responsible Person” and by definition a responsible person may be:
- The employer for those parts of premises staff that may go to
- The managing agent or owner for shared parts of premises or shared fire safety equipment such as fire-warning systems or sprinklers
- The occupier, such as self-employed people or voluntary organisations if they have any control
- Any other person who has some control over a part of the premises.
What skills are required to carry out the assessment?
The person carrying out the fire risk assessment should be competent to do so.
A “competent person” may be regarded as a person with sufficient training and experience, knowledge or other qualities, to enable him or her to carry out a defined task properly.
To assure you of competence assessors should be accredited to a suitable professional register.
I am listed on the Nationally Accredited Fire Risk Assessors Register (NAFRAR) which is the Institute of Fire Safety Managers IFSM) scheme.
To be accepted on the register applicants must have been through a process that has recognised their achievement at the highest standards and levels of competency for fire risk assessors that is available.
This means that their experience and competency has been successfully examined and tested by an independent third party accreditation / certification scheme. (including examination of a sample of fire risk assessments).
I gained my registration through the BAFE 205 scheme certification process which involved me leading a team that successfully achieved the standard for the business.
What does it involve?
A fire risk assessment involves a physical inspection of the building to determine the adequacy of the existing fire precautions and the need for any additional measures.
However, of equal importance to the physical inspection is a review of the fire safety management in the organisation and consideration of the human factors – who occupies the building and how they will respond to an emergency and whether they will take appropriate action.
There are practical limits to the extent of the survey and evaluation of the fire precautions. For example, in undertaking a fire risk assessment, we would not carry out an invasive survey but would endeavour to visually sample above false ceilings, in risers, voids, lofts and roofs where access is permissible and it is safe to do so. If we considered that more thorough examination of such areas was necessary, we would highlight this to you.
We would not conduct detailed engineering evaluation or testing of fire protection systems, emergency escape lighting, etc. However, we would inspect such systems visually.
In the case of a fire risk assessment aimed at satisfying the requirements of legislation, the objective of the risk assessment will primarily be the life safety of the occupants of the building.
While some of the recommendations we may make could also be beneficial to property protection, we would not be specifically addressing this objective or the objective of avoiding business interruption from fire. However, we do have the expertise to address these objectives, if required.
What does it cover?
The scope of the survey involved in a fire risk assessment would include the following particular aspects of fire safety:
- The occupants – demographic including any with impairments
- Activities and processes
- Fire loss experience.
- Fire hazards.
- Fire prevention.
- Storage and handling of flammable liquids and gases.
- Means of escape.
- Flammability of linings.
- Emergency escape lighting.
- Fire safety signs and notices.
- Fire detection and fire alarm systems.
- Fire extinguishing systems and appliances.
- Smoke control systems.
- Facilities for use by the fire and rescue service.
- Arrangements for management of fire safety.
- Fire procedures.
- Training and drills.
- Testing and maintenance.
When does it need to be repeated?
The fire risk assessment process is intended to be a continuous process, and take into account change.
Fire risk assessments should therefore be reviewed periodically which is generally accepted in the industry as at least annually,or if there is a reason to suspect that it is no longer valid, and, in particular, if significant changes take place, such as an increase in the numbers of people in the building or changes to floor layouts.
Fire risk assessments should also be reviewed after a fire.
I will give a suggested date for review in our reports. A review does not necessarily involve repeating the fire risk assessment process. A judgement on this is required based on the significance of the changes but it should be revised within 3 years.
What about multi-occupancy buildings?
In such premises the landlord will be responsible for communal areas, systems and infrastructure for example the corridors and stairs,the fire alarm and heating system. The landlord or their managing agent will arrange for a fire risk assessment of the areas.
The tenant is responsible for providing a fire risk assessment for their demise.
In some cases, the landlord will have the whole building assessed and make a charge to the tenant.
What about flats, bedsits and Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMO)?
The Fire Safety Order requires that a Fire Risk Assessment be undertaken of the communal areas. This is assessment is known as a Type 1 as defined by the guidance document “Fire Safety in Purpose Built Blocks of Flats”.
Fire Safety beyond the front door of a dwelling is covered by The Housing Act and specifically the Housing Health and Safety Rating System.
Where an assessment is required to include inspection of the dwelling this is known as a Type 3 assessment.
What about disabled persons and fire safety?
Impairments take many forms, they vary in severity and how they may affect the individual.
Consideration must be given to all persons with an impairment including temporary impairments, for example a broken leg or pregnancy.
The Fire Safety Order and Equality Act require that all persons are able to safely evacuate a building. In consultation with an individual’s line management a Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan (PEEP) may be required. This may include “Buddies”, work colleagues who will assist with evacuation in an emergency.
The Equality Act also specifies that “Reasonable Adjustments” may be necessary to ensure disabled persons can safely escape, the provision of a handrail for example.
In certain case other specialised equipment may need to be provided such as “Evac” chairs.
Do I need to keep records?
It is a legal requirement to keep suitable and up to date records where 5 or more persons are employed across an organisation.
It makes sense and is good practice to keep records where there are fewer than 5 persons as this provides evidence and demonstrates good management.