Fire Risk Assessment Guide
What Is A Fire Risk Assessment?
A Fire Risk Assessment (FRA) helps you to identify any hazards that could increase the chance of a fire happening on your premises or that might increase the severity of any fire that occurs.
With this information, you can eliminate those risks or reduce the risk as much as is reasonably possible. This is often referred to as identifying the likelihood of a fire and assessing the magnitude of the consequences.
Once you have completed the review element of a fire risk assessment, it is then important to implement the recommendations that have been outlined. For example, if flammable materials (paper) are stored near an ignition source (heater) then the risk of a fire occurring is increased.
You then need to choose to store the paper somewhere else, or ensure the heater has adequate fire-retardant protection to reduce this risk. This is how a fire risk assessment helps make premises safe for all users.
Fire risk assessments should be reviewed annually or when there are significant changes to your premises or the use of your premises. It is recommended that a full FRA is done every 5 years.
Do I Need A Fire Risk Assessment?
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 stipulates that any non-domestic premises require a fire risk assessment. Non-domestic premises are defined as;
all workplaces and commercial premises;
all premises the public have access to;
the common areas of multi-occupied residential buildings.
If there are five or more employees in a workplace, the FRA must be written down. The Health and Safety Executive makes it clear that “all employers have a legal responsibility to adopt behaviours, procedures and plans that;
Decrease the risk of a preventable fire breaking out
Minimise damage caused by accidental fires.”
A robust fire risk assessment is the best way of evidencing that.
Who Is Responsible For Carrying Out A Fire Risk Assessment?
This can be, but not always, two different people. The responsibility for an FRA rests with the owner of the premise. This responsibility cannot be delegated. In shared premises, there may be more than one responsible person so fire safety plans will need to be developed together 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.
Where there are business premises that are let; there needs to be coordination between the tenants and the owner of the building to make sure the fire risk assessment is completed, implemented and updated.
However, the law makes it clear that a competent person must carry out the fire risk assessment; often this requires skills and experience beyond that of the premise owner.
Therefore, the task of completing the fire risk assessment can be delegated to the most suitable person within an organisation. The person carrying out the fire risk assessment should be competent to do so.
Competence means they have sufficient training and experience, knowledge or other qualities, to enable them to carry out the FRA properly.
However, if no such competent person exists within the organisation, it is possible to hire a professional fire risk assessor, who will complete the FRA on your behalf and report back with their findings.
It is then the responsibility of the employer or premise owner to ensure that any recommendations from the fire risk assessment are implemented in a timely manner.
The responsible person must:
• carry out a fire risk assessment of the premises and review it regularly;
• tell staff or their representatives about the risks you’ve identified;
• put in place, and maintain, appropriate fire safety measures;
• plan for an emergency;
• provide staff information, fire safety instruction and training.
How To Carry Out A Fire Risk Assessment
The guiding principle underpinning fire risk assessments is to reduce the risk of fire to as low as is reasonably possible.
This is commonly referred to as the ALARP principle. For some sectors, there will always be a potential for fire because of the substances they are working with, however, it is ensuring that as much has been done as far as possible, to ensure that the likelihood of a fire occurring is reduced.
If you work in an environment that has dangerous substances, you will also need to consult the DSEAR Regulations as part of completing your fire risk assessment.
As mentioned earlier, when completing an assessment, you need to consider the likelihood of a fire occurring and then consider the magnitude of the consequences of that fire.
Using these two criteria, risks can be categorised as low, medium and high. If you have a low risk of fire occurring and the consequence of a fire would be small, then this would be a “low” risk.
There may be some basic fire safety steps you would want to ensure are being adhered to, but not much action may be needed.
However, if you have a high risk of fire occurring and it has serious consequences for individuals, your company and premises, then that would be classed as a high risk and you would need to have robust policies and procedures in place to ensure that risk was reduced to as low as is reasonably possible.
Once you have identified and categorised your risks, the next step is to create an action plan to reduce each risk using the ALARP principle. This is a vital part of your fire risk assessment and the responsible person must ensure these are implemented as soon as possible.
Finally, a date should be set for the FRA to be reviewed – significant changes to the premises, personnel, or the method of working will warrant a new assessment to be completed by the responsible person.
What Your Fire Risk Assessment Needs To Cover
Below are suggestions of the type of areas to cover when completing your fire risk assessment. Please note this is not an exhaustive list.
Types of ignition sources to consider;
Defective electrical fittings or misuse of electrical apparatus – light bulbs and fluorescent tubes too close to combustible materials, misuse or defective electrical extension leads and adapters, faulty or damaged wiring.
Matches, lighters, candles and smoking materials.
Flame or sparks from a work process such as welding, cutting, grinding or the use of a hot air gun.
Sources of frictional heat.
Ovens, kilns, open hearths, furnaces or incinerators.
Boilers, engines and other oil burning equipment.
Portable heaters and cooking equipment, including deep fat fryers.
Potential sources of fuel and unsafe situations:
Any combustibles – These can be divided into two main groups; combustible fuels such as paper, wood, cardboard, etc.; and highly combustible fuels such as thinners, solvents, polyurethane foam, etc.
Any unsafe procedures or acts – Persons undertaking unsafe acts such as smoking next to combustible materials.
Any unsafe conditions – These are hazards that may assist a fire to spread in your workplace, e.g. if there are large areas of hardboard or polystyrene tiles etc., or open stairs that can cause a fire to spread quickly, trapping people and involving the whole building.
The competent person completing the Fire Risk Assessment will need to evidence that they have considered the following;
The use, layout, and construction of the building
The number and nature of occupants, including any vulnerable occupants
Whether there is any history of fire loss in the building
Defence against arson
Protection against fires caused by lightning
General housekeeping & keeping key areas clear of combustible materials
Any fire hazards introduced by building works or outside contractors
The configuration of escape routes and how they are maintained
Measures in place to limit fire spread, such as compartmentalisation
That emergency lighting is installed correctly & is in working order
The correct use and locations of fire safety signs
There is adequate means of raising the alarm in case of fire
The right fire extinguishers are in the right locations
The correct installation and maintenance of other devices, such as sprinklers
Whether there are regular fire safety training & evacuation drills
Correct maintenance and testing procedures of fire safety systems are in place
That correct documentation and records of fire safety measures are being kept
How EDP Can Help
EDP are fire safety experts and have a long-established track record of providing fire risk assessments and fire safety consultancy to clients in a range of sectors and for buildings of all sizes and types.
Our fire safety knowledge and experience covers the public and private sectors and ranges from museums to offices, universities to warehouses, and residential properties to retail stores.
To speak to one of our fire safety team about how we can help you with your fire safety responsibilities, call 845 644 5354, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.