August 20, 2015

Fire Risk Assessments – A Burning Issue

Throughout Britain, there are unqualified people undertaking Fire Risk Assessments – and many of them are not insurance and not accredited.

There are incidents where Fire Authorities consider the assessments to be insufficient and refuse to accept them. They may also take action if they think your fire safety measures aren’t adequate. In some circumstances, they might issue an informal notice suggesting safety measures.

What is the legislation around Fire Risk Assessments?

The main objective of producing a Fire Risk Assessment (FRA) is to prevent or reduce the likelihood of fire by identifying and controlling fire hazards in the workplace; documented.

Where there are five or more employees, this assessment must be documented and brought to the attention of the workforce.

The main pieces of legislation are The regulatory reform Fire Safety Order 2005 (RR(FS)O in  England  and Wales and the  Fire( Scotland)Act 2005 for Scotland.

Other related subordinate legislation also exists which are similar in there requirements and both place duties on employer, owner, or  any other person who has control of any part of the workplace or where premises are subject to a license to undertake a detailed Fire risk.

In England and Wales there is a requirement to appoint a ‘ responsible person ‘who must carry out ,a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks of fire in their premises and to protect employees and others ‘relevant persons’ who may be affected by fire in your work or business.

How do I meet the requirements?

If you are the person responsible, you must make sure you carry out a Fire Risk Assessment, although you can pass this task to some other competent person. However, you will still be responsible, in law, for meeting the order.

If you don’t, you could get an enforcement notice if the fire and rescue authority finds a serious risk that’s not being managed. It will say what improvements are needed by when Failure to comply is an offence

While the competent person undertaking a fire risk assessment the assessor need not possess any specific academic qualifications they should:

Understand the relevant fire safety legislation pertinent to there location

  • Have appropriate education, training, knowledge and experience in the principles of fire safety
  • Have an understanding of fire development and the behavior of people in a fire situation
  • Understand the fire hazards, fire risks and relevant factors associated with occupants at special risk within the buildings of the type in question
  • Have appropriate training and/or experience in carrying out fire risk assessments

One side issue is important to be aware of fire certificates are no longer issued and existing certificates are no longer valid. A fairly recent fire certificate however may be a good starting point for your risk assessment. It is also of paramount importance to ensure that the person who undertakes the risk assessment is sufficiently qualified to do so.

Additional duties of the person responsible for fire safety is the requirement   to carry out specific duties in relation to fire arrangements. It is their responsibility to:

  • carry out Induction training (general fire awareness)
  • eliminate or reduce the risk from fire as far as is reasonably practical and provide general fire precautions to deal with any risk.
  • take additional measures to ensure fire safety where flammable or explosive materials are used or stored.
  • create a plan to deal with any emergency and where necessary record any findings.
  • maintain general fire precautions, and facilities provided for use by fire-fighters.
  • keep any findings of the risk assessment under review.

Fire risk assessment contents:

As a short summary, a fire risk assessment is made up of but not limited to the following aspects: –

  • legal/general
  • special/high or critical risks
  • fire loading and hazardous activities
  • means of escape
  • protection the means of escape
  • fire detection and warning arrangements
  • fire separation, confinement and protection
  • fire fighting equipment
  • information and training

When determining whether your premises have adequate escape routes, you need to consider a number of factors, including:

  • the type and number of people using the premises
  • escape time
  • the age and construction of the premises
  • the number and complexity of escape routes and exits
  • whether lifts can or need to be used
  • the use of phased or delayed alarm evacuation
  • assisted means of escape/personal evacuation plans (PEEPs)
  • assembly points

If you need further advice or support on this topic, you can contact us or call 0844 391 1921.

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About the author

Eamon Griffin