As a business, our principles lead us to create safe environments for our clients and their visitors. One of the biggest and most devastating risks any building has is the risk of fire. As a highest priority, the safety of people inside the building is of utmost importance. Following that, ensuring the continued use of a space is vital to operations, no matter what industry you are in. Furthermore, protecting property and equipment from damage can be just as important. Finally, it almost goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway; it’s a legal requirement to ensure your building is safe via a fire risk assessment (FRA).
What is a fire risk assessment?
A fire risk assessment is a scheduled investigation of your building to identify and reduce potential fire hazards. You should also evaluate the measures and controls that have been implemented as a part of previous fire risk assessments to ensure they are as effective as you planned. The overall aim of a fire risk assessment is to enable you to bring your building up to the highest standards of fire safety.
Who is responsible for a fire risk assessment?
Handily, the people responsible for fire safety in a business or non-domestic building are known simply as a “responsible person”. Who would have thought it? You are a responsible person if you are one of the following:
- an employer
- the owner
- the landlord
- an occupier
- anyone that has some level of control of the premises, for example a facilities manager, building manager, managing agent or risk assessor
A non-domestic building is basically any premises that isn’t a house. This means that buildings that have to follow the fire safety regulations includes, but is not limited to; offices, retail, healthcare, educational, pubs, restaurants, churches, hotels, factories and communal spaces in flats. If it’s a building that people can go to and it isn’t a private home, it has to follow these rules and will have a responsible person.
A responsible person has to ensure that a fire risk assessment is carried out and reviewed regularly. Once assessed, they should then inform staff of the risks that have been identified. After this, it is time to start implementing safety measures, ensuring that they are maintained and in good working order in case of an emergency. Speaking of which, they will also have to create the fire emergency plan and then provide information on equipment and protocols for what to do in said emergencies. This will include documentation and training to make sure everyone understands the relevant processes and is as safe as possible from fire emergencies.
Should you have any new building work, or alterations/extensions on a current building, you should ensure that fire safety is included at the design stage and considered throughout the build. A new fire risk assessment will have to be carried out to incorporate the new building to ensure its safety.
What are the risks of not having a fire risk assessment?
The most obvious risk is the lack of health and safety, endangering the health, and possibly the lives, of people that use the building. You would also be risking the loss of either part of, or your entire premises, to fire. Fire spreads fast and can be hard to get under control if not extinguished quickly. It is very feasible that your building could be entirely unusable should a fire break out. According to statistics, should you suffer a major incident, there is a 70% chance your business will either never reopen or will fail within 18 months of reopening.
Due to the importance of a fire risk assessment, the UK government heavily enforce fire safety requirements. Minor penalties can incur fines up to £5,000, whilst major penalties have unlimited fines and up to 2 years in prison, depending on the severity.
Fundamentals of a fire risk assessment
1. Identify Hazards
The first step to a fire risk assessment is identifying what fire hazards are within your building and where they are located. This includes sources of ignition, such as anywhere there are naked flames, heaters or within electrical infrastructure. Next is potential sources of fuel, which help fire spread faster and make it more dangerous. This includes piled up cardboard boxes and other flammable materials, textiles and products with poor organisation. Finally, you should note down sources of oxygen, such as air conditioning or medical oxygen supplies, which can be hugely impactful on the spread of a fire.
2. Identify people at risk
The next step is identifying who would be most at risk should a fire break out. This would include people working near dangers, such as someone in a warehouse stock area, or within offices that contain heaters. It should also identify areas where people work alone or in isolated conditions, such as in maintenance areas or roof spaces. This should also take particular note of children, parents with babies, the elderly and those with disabilities that use your building.
3. Evaluate risk and reduce risk
This is one of the most important stages of the fire risk assessment. The third step is evaluating your findings and implementing a solution. This means reducing risks and eliminating them where possible. For example, fuel sources, such as cardboard waste, should be moved away from electrical equipment, or vice versa. This is also the stage in which you will ultimately implement extra fire detection, extinguishers, safety route plans and much more, which all improve the safety of your building.
4. Documentation and training
In this step you should record all of the information you discovered in your information gathering exercises in the first two steps and what you have done in the third step to address your findings. Documentation should include your emergency plan, which will be shared with staff and visitors as required. More thorough training will be required for certain members of staff who may have to guide others or use equipment.
5. Review fire risk
A fire risk assessment isn’t just a one-off job. It should be regularly updated, based on business changes, increased volume of staff or visitors, building modifications, etc. Staying on top of your fire risk assessments is the only way to ensure everyone is safe from the risk of fire.
What we have detailed today is just a general overview of the risks of poor fire safety and a quick synopsis on how to perform a fire risk assessment. There is no way to completely eliminate the risk of a fire starting, but you can make buildings a lot safer in the event of a fire. Working with a professional company like Munday + Cramer is the best way to mitigate risks and keep people safe, whilst following all fire safety rules and regulations.
For more information on how the team here at Munday + Cramer can help in this process, or if you would like to find out more about our building surveying services, operating in Essex, London, Kent, Norfolk and Suffolk, then get in touch! Contact Munday + Cramer today on 01245 326 200.