A workplace fire can be devastating, causing untold damage to your premises and, in the worst case, even costing lives. Minimising the risk of fire should be a priority for every business. The place to start is with a fire risk assessment.
What is a fire risk assessment?
A fire risk assessment is similar in structure to a general risk assessment. It should highlight specific areas of risk and suggest ways to minimise them and mitigate the consequences. Fire risk assessments should look at areas like:
- Listing potential fire hazards. These include sources of ignition and objects or materials that could act as fuel.
- Identifying employees and other people on site who would be vulnerable in the event of a fire. Pay special attention to elderly or disabled people who would take longer to evacuate the building.
- Outlining your escape route, as well as alternative routes in case of a blockage. You should also describe the measures you will implement to keep these routes accessible at all times.
- Listing the locations of all fire and smoke alarms and the steps you will take to keep them in working order.
- Appointing fire marshals and develop a fire drill regime.
- Identifying where and when emergency signage and lighting should be installed.
- Describing your firefighting strategy. Highlight the locations of all fire extinguishers and the training needed to use them. You should also identify the nearest fire station and its estimated response time.
Who needs to carry out a fire risk assessment?
Each country in the UK has slightly different legislation, but all four nations require employers to carry out regular fire risk assessments. You can either perform these yourself, or you can assign the task to a “competent person” such as an external risk assessor. If your company has five employees or more, you also need to keep a written record of the assessment. More onerous requirements apply to vulnerable businesses, for example care homes.
What are the benefits of a fire risk assessment?
As well as being a legal requirement, a fire risk assessment has other advantages. Even a small fire can cause extensive damage, so preventing fires makes sense from a financial point of view. You may be insured against fire damage, but failure to perform a proper risk assessment could undermine your claim.
Taking the time to carry out a detailed risk assessment also shows your employees that you take fire safety seriously. Staff are more likely to adhere to fire safety policies if they see that you have put effort into creating and maintaining them. Prioritising staff well-being in this way is also great for morale.
Is it time for an update?
By law, fire risk assessments should be updated regularly, but a timeframe is not specified. This means that it’s up to you to decide when it’s time for a new risk assessment. As a general rule of thumb, it’s a good idea to update your risk assessment every year. However, there are some situations in which a new assessment may be needed sooner:
- Moving to new premises
- An increase in the number of staff on site
- Complaints from employees about existing fire safety policies
- Concerns from management over your fire safety record
- A recent fire or near miss
There is also upcoming legislation that could make a fire risk assessment necessary. The proposed Fire Safety Bill is largely aimed at improving fire safety in residential flats and high-rise buildings. However, it also aims to improve fire risk assessments in other premises and will provide for unlimited fines for those who fail in their responsibilities.
We’re here to help
A good fire risk assessment takes a lot of work. You will need to inspect your premises thoroughly and record your findings in detail. We understand that you may struggle to fit this in around your other duties. This is where we can help.
Our team has over 60 years of collective experience in managing the risk of fire. We will identify any areas of concern and provide expert advice on reducing the danger. We know the law inside out, so you can rest assured that you will be fully compliant when we are finished. We can also provide specialised fire safety training through eLearning courses.
Get in touch today to get started.