Hopefully, you will already be well aware of the importance of undertaking a suitable fire risk assessment at any property for which you are responsible for. However, what you may not be so well-informed about, is the frequency with which you should arrange for a fire risk assessment to be carried out.
After all, while the relevant legislation states that a fire risk assessment – or FRA – should be conducted regularly at all business premises and for the communal areas of blocks of flats, no specific time frame is given for this.
So, what do you need to know about how often to review the fire risk assessment you may have already undertaken for a given property?
What is involved with a fire risk review?
A fire risk review – otherwise often referred to as a ‘fire risk assessment’ – is a review carried out for a building, focusing on the extent and nature of the fire risk the premises poses, and the measures that could help make the building safer in the event of a fire breaking out.
A fire risk review typically consists of the following stages: determining the fire hazards the building presents, identifying any at-risk individuals, and evaluating the risks, so that appropriate steps can be taken to minimise or eradicate those risks.
When arranging and carrying out a fire risk assessment at any premises for which you are responsible, you should also be ready to make a note of your findings, prepare an emergency plan, and provide training for occupants of the building.
Finally, a key element of your handling of your fire risk assessment should be ensuring that your FRA is regularly reviewed. This will allow for new insights into the latest situation for fire safety at your premises, so that you can update the measures you have implemented. However, it still doesn’t touch on exactly how often you should review your existing fire risk assessment.
How often should a risk assessment be carried out?
As we addressed above, the legislation in relation to fire risk assessments doesn’t actually stipulate a particular frequency with which you should review your building’s FRA.
Instead, the overarching principle – as laid out by the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 – is to ensure your fire risk assessment is kept up to date.
What this effectively means is that you are legally required to carry out another FRA if any changes take place in the building, given that you probably won’t know whether such changes will affect the fire risk your premises present until you actually undertake such a review.
It’s easy to imagine that your building probably hasn’t changed that much over time, and that you therefore don’t need to be greatly vigilant about conducting further regular risk assessments.
In truth, though, even seemingly small or very gradual changes to a given premises can make a significant difference to the fire risk it presents.
This is why, even during times when there aren’t obvious changes to a building for which you are responsible, it is still recommended that once you have had a professional FRA undertaken, you review the document every year.
Reasons to review your fire risk assessment
If, on the other hand, there are obvious changes to your premises, you should naturally carry out a fresh review of your risk assessment in response to this. Regardless, below are examples of situations and circumstances in which you should be arranging to review your existing FRA.
- Annual review. It isn’t always obvious when any major changes have occurred that would necessitate a review of your current fire risk assessment. That’s why, regardless of anything else, it’s a good idea to carry out such reviews on a schedule – for instance, once a year – to help ensure your FRA for the given building is consistently up to date.
- Changes in legislation. If there is any change to fire safety legislation that would affect your building for which an existing FRA is in place, it is naturally vital to keep on top of this. After all, work practices, technology and even the political climate do not stay the same forever, and this can lead to new legislation being continually brought forward.
- Changes in task. Managing the fire risk that may be presented by a particular building is never just about considering the four walls of the building itself. That’s because the way such premises are used can also evolve greatly over time. Alterations to working practices, or the introduction of new machines or equipment – to give just a few examples – necessitate a new fire risk assessment to consider how the risk may have also changed.
- Improvements. Even if you introduce changes at your premises with the specific intention of improving health and safety, you can’t be automatically sure that such ‘improvements’ will be effective at minimising or removing risk, just because you hope that to be the case. So, when changes are implemented like this, it’s a good idea to carry out a follow-up assessment, probably focused on the change that has been implemented.
- Accidents or near misses. Even if you do implement a lot of steps designed to improve health and safety, accidents or ‘near misses’ can still occur. When they do, it’s crucial to make sure you learn something from them. Investigating the incident and reviewing your FRA – with the help of the Health and Safety Executive’s dedicated document on this subject – will go a long way to making sure up-to-date controls are in place to prevent it from happening again.
- Reports and complaints. Any process that human beings manually carry out is susceptible to some degree of human error, and much the same can be said of risk assessments. Having carried out an FRA doesn’t mean you will have definitely covered any and every potential element of fire risk at your premises, and users of your buildings – such as your staff or even visiting members of the public – may point out hazards or risks to you. This could be the prompt for you to undertake a fresh review of your existing fire risk assessment.
- Staff members. We touched on the subject of members of staff above, and it may be that you have personnel for whom particular consideration has to be given. Some employees using your premises may be at greater risk in the event of a fire than others due to mobility issues, for example. It is therefore worth carrying out a new FRA as soon as you become aware of this, so that it can be accounted for in how you manage fire safety for the building.
The process of managing fire risk assessments, and knowing when a review is needed, can become more complicated as the property portfolio for which you are responsible for grows. Keeping track of your fire risk compliance responsibilities is not only important but a legal requirement. If you need assistance any step of the way, contact ACMS UK Projects on 0115 922 0600 or email firstname.lastname@example.org