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The Whats, Whys and Hows of a Fire Risk Assessment

Safety in general, and particularly components like fire safety, can seem an intimidating area for businesses and site owners to address. However, as daunting as it may seem, it is not only required by law, but crucial for keeping people safe. It also doesn’t need to be as scary as it sounds. With the correct procedures and accountabilities in place, fire safety can be simple. At its core, fire safety involves identifying, evaluating and minimising risk. That’s where fire risk assessments come in.  

What is a fire risk assessment?

A fire risk assessment is a legal requirement for anyone responsible for a premises or building other than a single private home. This could be employers, occupiers, landlords, building managers; all those deemed the ‘Responsible Person’ or ‘Duty Holder’ as defined by the Fire Safety Order.

As part of their duty as the responsible person, a fire risk assessment must be carried out and reviewed regularly. This is a thorough examination of the premises through a fire prevention lens to identify the site specific fire safety hazards, the potential risks these pose and the best methods of control. Once completed, steps can be taken based on the findings to improve site fire safety and ensure compliance to minimise risk to those that use the premises. For buildings with more than 5 regular occupants, the fire risk assessment must be documented in writing and made readily available on request to the enforcing authority. 

Why is it important and what's included?

Fire risk assessments are crucial for minimising potential injury or loss of life to the building users if a fire were to break out. As seen from the above statistics, there must be a continuous cycle of improvement with the aim of reducing incidents to zero. 

Local fire and rescue authorities visit premises to check fire prevention measures and risk assessments. In fact, the penalty for inadequate precautions is prosecution that can result in fines and in some extreme cases, prison. The focus must therefore be on comprehensively identifying, evaluating and reducing risks. A unique emergency plan, training and continuous site improvements can then be implemented for each specific site. 

The level of detail in a fire risk assessment will vary based on the building’s intricacies. For example, a small retail shop will have fewer review points  compared to a large office building or a complex hotel property as the site is smaller and there are fewer people at risk. In general, things you might check as part of the assessment are: 

  • The building layout, emergency routes and exits 
  • Emergency evacuation plans
  • If there are adequate measures to detect and raise alarm in case of fires
  • Staff training on fire safety and evacuation drills
  • The number of occupants and any specific needs of potentially vulnerable people
  • Housekeeping generally, plus making sure fire routes and key areas are being kept clear especially of any flammable or combustible materials
  • The fire fighting equipment, signs and emergency lighting
  • Any equipment that could cause a fire (electrical, ovens, cooking equipment like fryers, kilns, portable heaters, etc)
  • Ensuring any flammable liquids are stored properly 
  • The documentation of the building’’s fire safety prevention measures 
  • …and more! If you need more information get in touch with our experts

How often should a fire risk assessment be reviewed?

It is important to review and re-do fire risk assessments to ensure fire safety standards remain high. The frequency of this will depend on a number of factors, however as a general guideline a fire risk assessment should be completed every 1-5 years depending on property type and risk. It must also be reviewed every 12 months or if there are any significant changes. The determinations that might change this are:

  • Whether the building is restructured and the layout changes. This will significantly affect fire routes and other safety plans
  • If there has been a significant change in the amount of people using or living at the premises and whether any of these people are considered vulnerable
  • If the building’s purpose has changed at all such as the introduction of high risk tasks / use.

A review of your fire risk assessment must be carried out at least every 12 months but also if anything of this nature occurs. 

Who is responsible for completing a fire risk assessment

As we know, a fire risk assessment is a legal requirement for anyone who has control of a building or premises that is not a single private home; this makes you the ‘Responsible Person.’ For example, this could be the landlord of a block of flats (where you would only be in charge of communal areas), a small business owner of a cafe or the general manager of a restaurant chain. 

As the responsible person you must ensure all fire safety duties are carried out and documented and are, therefore, responsible for fire risk assessments. You can either conduct these yourself, appoint a ‘competent person’ (as defined by government guidelines), or get help from a specialist.

If you choose to carry out fire risk assessments yourself, or appoint another person, you must ensure they are comfortable with assessing a building on factors like those listed above. They must also make sure any recommendations highlighted in the assessment are acted upon and reviewed on a regular basis. 

Getting help from a professional ensures your fire risk assessor is up-to-date with government guidelines, legal requirements and understands how different buildings operate. 

Festive season safety tips ❄️

As the festive season is just round the corner, we thought we should share some festive fire safety tips! ❄️

  1. If December means putting up a Christmas tree for you in your premises, make sure your Christmas tree lights meet the British Standard, are not frayed and that you turn them off before leaving for the night. Be careful where you put lit candles. Keep them away from your Christmas tree (especially as it dries out) and any other flammable objects
  2. Never overload electrical sockets (even if it means your decorations have to move somewhere else!)
  3. If you’re putting up decorations like tinsel and snowflakes, make sure they are away from lights, candles, heaters and fires – they can burn easily
  4. If you have a fireplace, take care around the open flames especially with loose clothing or decorations. If customers or staff are likely to have to go near the open flame, think about putting a safety measure in place such as a fireplace guard.
  5. Also ensure you have safe means of removing and storing any used material such as wood or coal embers and used lighting material, and that your chimney or flue is regularly swept by a professional contractor.
  6. Food is an important part of the festive season, but make sure you are still staying safe by turning ovens off and monitoring cooking (it’s easy to get distracted this time of year!)
  7. The cold weather means turning the heaters on! Keep them away from decorations and certain furniture
  8. And last but not least, make sure you’re enjoying yourself whilst staying safe 🧡

If you need help with fire safety, we’re here to help. We help businesses of all sizes stay safe. Our team at Navitas Safety can provide fire safety advice and arrange for FRA’s to be undertaken by one of our Fire Risk Assessor Partners. 

Discover our top 5 food safety hacks for a stress-free festive season! 🎄

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