What is a fire risk assessment?
In simple terms a fire risk assessment identifies the fire hazards within a building and indicates how these hazards can be controlled in order to prevent a fire from starting. It should also examine the adequacy of fire precautions so that those present in a building on fire are able to escape safely.
Who is responsible for completing a fire risk assessment?
The first duty of the responsible person is to carry out a fire risk assessment. If you are in a multi-occupancy building, its the landlord’s duty to carry out the risk assessment within the communal areas of the building. See our fire safety in the workplace page for more information on the responsible person.
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5 steps of a fire risk assessment
The steps required to complete a fire risk assessment assessment is similar to the steps undertaken for general risk assessments in the workplace. It is therefore recommended that you adopt the five steps to fire risk assessment approach. If you have having an external fire safety professional carry out your assessment, you will find that they will follow these steps. The steps are:
- Identify fire hazards.
- Identify people at risk.
- Evaluate, remove or reduce, and protect from risk.
- Record, plan, inform, instruct and train.
Let’s take a closer look at each of these steps.
Here, you need to look for three categories of fire hazard: ignition sources, fuels and sources of oxygen. Take away one of these three and a fire cannot start, or will not be sustained. Together these form what is known as the fire triangle.
A list of fire hazards is essential for accurate assessment of risks. Fire hazards can be present in equipment, substances or working practices which:
- act as an ignition source;
- are combustible; and
- provide a source of heat.
The main aim is not only to evaluate how and where a fire could occur, but also to consider how quickly a fire could develop into a serious incident.
When identifying who could be at risk from fire go beyond listing groups such as employees, visitors and contractors. Consider:
- Are there any members of staff who are especially at risk due to a health condition or disability?
- Do you have any pregnant employees?
- Are there young workers who may be less capable of leadership in a crisis, or less risk aware?
- Are members of the public present or others less familiar with the building?
- In the event of a fire who will need help and guidance to evacuate the premises?
The risk assessment process is not just about identifying risks and hazards, you also need to reduce or remove fire hazards and the risk to people. Once you know where your ignition, fuel and additional oxygen sources are and who is at risk, you can take steps to minimise these risks and hazards.
The risk assessment should be recorded if it is written on behalf of an employer with five or more employees. The findings of the risk assessment should be used to devise emergency arrangements. Staff should be trained in the hazards and the precautions you expect them to implement. Where staff have a specified role such as in testing the fire alarm or being a fire marshal/warden, they should receive the necessary training.
You should also have arrangements in place for instructing visitors and contractors. These arrangements should be appropriate to your circumstances. In the case of contractors it is common practice to provide a short briefing. If you are dealing with members of the public and visitors it’s more usual to rely upon fire action notices, visitor badges and announcements.
You will need to review your risk assessment and all relevant fire safety documents if there are any changes to either the work process, the building, staffing or any other relevant aspects of the assessment. In any case it’s advisable to review the assessment periodically. It is usual to do so annually, but you may decide on a higher or lower frequency depending on the likelihood of change in your workplace.
How can we help?
Completing a fire risk assessment can be daunting if you have never done one before, but it is not impossible. If your operations are fairly straightforward with minimal hazards, then there is no reason why you can’t use the information provided above and free templates available online to complete your assessment.
If you would just prefer a fire safety professional to carry out your assessment then we’re here to help, just get in touch. Remember to visit our general fire safety page where you will find much more information on fire safety.