Fire Risk Assessment: Why You Need One
It is so important to ensure that everyone in a building stays safe, which is why undertaking a fire risk assessment is essential. It is not essential by law, but it can also reveal to you any hazards, make you aware of obstacles in the way of vulnerable people’s safety and can help you create a plan in case of an emergency.
In this blog, we’ll cover everything you need to know about fire risk assessments, what they are, what they involve and how you can go about getting a fire risk assessment, as they are an integral part of any building ownership and management.
What Is a Fire Risk Assessment?
The purpose of a fire risk assessment is to ensure that the building remains free of risks that could cause a fire, ensuring everyone using the building is kept safe. It assesses the building, taking hazards, vulnerable people, the floorplan and obstacles into consideration, to decide how safe it is. The assessment aims to tackle any obstacles that stand in the way of people’s safety, in case a fire occurs.
In the Workplace, Who Is Responsible for Fire Risk Assessments?
There should be a responsible person in every workplace, who is responsible for ensuring that the premises are safe from fire hazards. Before 2005 all a premise would need to be fire safe was a fire safety certificate, but now these are no longer valid.
To be safe nowadays, you need to contact a qualified contractor to undertake a fire risk assessment, which is the only way to stay within the law and make the building safe. The responsible person on your premises is also responsible for arranging the fire risk assessment with the contractor and ensuring that everything runs smoothly with the assessment.
Failing to hire a professional to assess your building and identify fire risks means that you are personally responsible for any danger that occurs. This means potential hazards could be missed, or that vulnerable people are not taken into consideration in the evacuation plan, which could have disastrous and life-threatening consequences.
What Does a Fire Risk Assessment Involve?
The assessment can be undertaken by the responsible person in the building, or a hired professional. The whole purpose of these assessments is to:
- Understand who is at risk if a fire were to occur
- Identify what the potential fire risks and hazards are for the building
- Reduce the risks and evaluate the current circumstance
- Put a plan in place in case a fire does occur, providing training and making everyone in the building aware
- Ensure that a fire assessment is done regularly and kept updated when changes occur
All of these points aim to take many things into consideration, looking at how the building currently stands, then suggesting improvements and making a plan of action in case a fire does break out.
This often involves testing smoke alarms and fire detection equipment, looking at emergency routes and exits and considering how vulnerable people, such as people with disabilities and the elderly, will stay safe.
What Exactly Do Assessments Review in Your Building?
A fire risk assessment is an all-encompassing review that takes into consideration so many factors. It aims to look at every detail to potentially affect the safety of the occupants, anything that could fuel a fire, get in the way of an evacuation or impact a situation in which a fire does occur. Here are some of the things that a professional contractor will take into consideration when assessing your building:
- Test procedures and maintenance of fire systems
- Emergency lighting
- Housekeeping, if there are objects in the way
- Defences against arson
- Smoking areas and how fires are prevented here
- Number of occupants, if they are vulnerable (elderly or children for example)
- The building’s history of fire loss
- Electrics that could ignite
- The layout and floor plan
- Measures to tackle fires cause by lighting
- Fire hazards from building work
- What measures have been implemented to limit fire spread
- Escape routes and fire exits
- How flammable and hazardous materials and liquids are stored
- Fire alarms are in working order
- Sprinklers are in good working order
- Fire evacuation drills and fire safety training in place
- Records and appropriate documentation on fire safety
- How the premises are managed will also be taken into account
Who Needs to Undertake Fire Risk Assessments?
Your fire risk assessment can be undertaken by a responsible person in your building, or you can opt to hire a professional to do the job. If you choose to nominate someone in your building, you need to ensure that they do the job properly, as cutting corners can endanger lives. It can also mean that if there were a fire due to negligence or another avoidable reason, then you yourselves could be held accountable.
If, on the other hand, you choose to hire a professional, this ensures that everything is properly carried out and done so to the best standard. This is often the safer option and advisable for larger buildings, an office with many employees or any site which is complex. This means that fire risks are dealt with, kept to a minimum and the correct procedures are carried out, as these assessors are professionally trained.
How Often Should Your Building Be Assessed?
A fire risk assessment needs to be carried out regularly, it is suggested that this happens at least once per year and carried out by a professional every 4 years. A new assessment always needs to happen when there are any significant changes to the building and its layout. This ensures that any new obstacles to safety have been considered and addressed and the appropriate steps are taken to remedy any potential hazards.
What Legal Guidelines Are Associated With Fire Risk Assessments?
There are a few legal guidelines that all property owners and responsible persons need to be aware of, so they can ensure risk is kept to a minimum and they work within the law.
- If there are less than 5 people in your building, you do not require a fire risk assessment
- Assessment should be conducted regularly, every 12 months after the first assessment
- A new assessment is needed if the building layout has changed
- If the occupants of the building have changed considerably
Adhering to all these points ensures that any changes are taken into consideration and that a new assessment can identify any new risks that have popped up. If the layout has changed, then this could create a potential obstacle for someone in a wheelchair or present new fire risks that need to be taken into consideration.
If there are more people in your building, this also increases the chance of a fatality and makes evacuating the building a more complicated procedure. This is why a qualified contractor can devise an evacuation plan and give advice on reducing risks and hazards. Also, if the occupants of the building change significantly, they may not be aware of exits and you might not be aware of their needs, so a new assessment ensures everyone’s safety is taken into consideration.
UKSM Can Help With Quality Fire Risk Assessments
Offices, warehouses, schools, shopping centres, zoos, doctors surgeries and hostels among many other buildings where over 5 people are present, need a fire risk assessment. As specialists in many different safety services, we also offer these sorts of assessments.
Our highly experienced and qualified workers are here to help, offering advice and up-to-date knowledge involving the law around fire safety. They can show you what areas are at risk and exactly what you need to do to improve them, offering evacuation plans and suggestions on fire extinguishers and fire blankets too.
To learn more about a fire risk assessment and other safety services, get in touch with our team today. To read more on safety at home and in the workplace, read more on our blog, which covers similar topics.