fire risk assessment

What is a fire risk assessment?

Undertaking a fire risk assessment in your building is essential to keeping people safe and reducing the risk of a fire in a workplace. People often ask, “what is a fire risk assessment?” A fire risk assessment needs to be at the centre of your building’s fire safety plans. It is an evaluation of a building or workplace that is put in place to identify potential fire hazards and assess the risk of those hazards causing harm to people in a building. The assessment is used to find any deficiencies in the buildings fire safety provisions and to develop a plan to make the building safer, if necessary.

Does every business need a fire risk assessment?

It is a legal requirement for every business to have a fire risk assessment carried out in their building, this is mentioned in the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. This order requires that any commercial premises with more than five occupants must ensure that a fire risk assessment has been conducted by a competent person. The Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 (DSEAR) also requires employers to assess the risk of fires arising from work activities involving dangerous substances, and to eliminate or reduce these risks.

What is the process of a fire risk assessment?

Identify the fire hazards

The first step when conducting a fire risk assessment is to identify all potential fire hazards in the building. This includes identifying sources of ignition, such as electrical equipment, heaters – anything that involves flames or heat, and sources of fuel such as waste materials, textiles, a build-up or overstocking or flammable gases. It also includes any potential sources of oxygen; this is things like air conditioning units or anything that provides a purer or more frequent flow of oxygen. Identifying any areas of the building that may be more vulnerable to a fire, such as storage areas or areas with large numbers of people, will also be identified as a potential fire hazard.

Identify people at risk

Once the potential fire hazards have been identified, the next step is to assess the risk of those hazards that may or are already causing harm to the people in the building. This includes evaluating the likelihood of a fire occurring and the potential consequences of a fire, such as the number of people who could be injured or killed. There are certain types of people who are more at risk in the events of a fire, this includes people who are unfamiliar with the premises such as customers or visitors, people with language difficulties, children or parents with babies, people with a disability or those that work alone or in isolated areas of the building.

Evaluate, remove, or reduce the risks

After the risk assessment has been completed by a suitably qualified and experienced person. They should have an understanding of the fire safety and the ability to identify, evaluate fire hazards and put recommendations in place to reduce or remove these hazards.  Ways of reducing risks include, keeping flammable materials away from any sources of ignition, having a strict policy when it comes to smoking, replacing flammable materials with less flammable ones and preventing access to all hazards. A plan will be developed as well to address any deficiencies in the buildings fire safety provisions. This may include installing fire alarms and sprinkler systems, providing fire extinguishers and other firefighting equipment, and ensuring they are serviced regularly. Implementing fire safety evacuation procedures is also essential. It is also important that once the risks have been evaluated, the competent person will find ways to reduce and remove them.

Record your findings, prepare an emergency plan, and provide training

After the fire risk assessment has been carried out, it is important for this to be documented. This involves recording the hazards and the people at risk identified, as well as what the action is needed to be taken to remove or reduce the risks found. Creating an emergency plan is also essential for keeping people safe. It involves having a clear passageway to all escape routes which are clearly marked with Id signs, ensuring they are as short and direct as possible and have enough exits and routes for all people to escape. All employees in the building will need to be trained so that they are aware of the risks and plans for these emergencies. Ensuring that there are trained fire marshals in a workplace is also part of the fire risk assessment process. In the event of a fire, it can be a very stressful situation and not everyone will know what to do, so implementing fire marshals into your business will help get people out of the building safely and quickly. Existing fire marshals may also need a higher level of training if necessary.

Review and update the Fire Risk Assessment regularly

A fire risk assessment isn’t just a one-time thing, it is an ongoing process that needs to be updated regularly. This is to ensure that your workplace is safe from any hazards that could cause injury to individuals or put risk on their lives. If you experience a fire or if your building sees significant changes in any way, a new fire risk assessment should be carried out. Some examples of the changes that could happen include changes to the structure of your building, changes to the function or purpose of any part of your building, where new, hazardous substances are kept on site, after a fire-related incident, if you notice damage to fire safety equipment, where there are changes to the number of staff on the premises or where staff with disabilities are hired.

If you are unsure whether your business needs a fire risk assessment, see the below list of some of the types of workplaces that are required to have one regularly, according to GOV.UK

  • Offices and retail
  • Hospitals and care homes
  • Places of worship
  • Community halls and premises
  • Factories and warehouses
  • Schools and education facilities
  • Pubs, restaurants and clubs
  • Hotels and hostels
  • Sports centres
  • Tents and marquees
  • Theatres, cinemas and similar premises
  • Open air events and venues
  • Healthcare premises
  • Animal premises and stables
  • Transport premises and facilities