We’re sure we don’t need to emphasise to you the moral duty that you have, as someone responsible for given premises, to do everything possible to ensure the highest level of on-site fire safety. And, of course, you are also likely to have good financial reasons to adopt measures to help protect the premises themselves.
But what about the legal and regulatory picture? This seems to be the subject of uncertainty or confusion among some people who are responsible for fire safety on their site, and fire risk assessments – or ‘FRAs’ – can often be particularly misunderstood.
What is a fire risk assessment?
The term ‘fire risk assessment’ might seem self-explanatory to some readers. Nonetheless, it is a good idea to remind ourselves what purpose an FRA serves, and what form it therefore ought to take.
As the term suggests, a fire risk assessment is carried out in order to determine the level and nature of fire risk on premises for which the person carrying out the fire risk assessment is responsible. This information will help give the ‘responsible person’ the insight they need into how fire can be prevented on the given premises, and how they can help keep people safe in the process.
The need for a fire risk assessment to be undertaken in almost all types of premises – except single domestic dwellings – is set out by the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, otherwise often referred to as the ‘RRO’ or ‘FSO’.
But you must also recognise that a Fire Risk Assessment is static and a snapshot in time. If any changes to the premises or the occupants takes place following the Assessment and before the next one is due, updates should be recorded to ensure the information is always current and therefore the procedures put in place are still fit for purpose.
Who is responsible for completing a fire risk assessment?
The task of determining who is responsible for having a fire risk assessment carried out is about first determining who is responsible for general fire safety on given business or other non-domestic premises.
The short answer to that question is that if you have control of the premises in some way – such as if you are the owner of the property, or the landlord, an occupier, an employer, or someone in a role such as facilities manager or building manager – you will be the ‘responsible person’ for that site.
It is worth noting that any given premises can have multiple ‘responsible people’. So, if you are one of them for your own site, you will need to work alongside the other ‘responsible persons’ to ensure your fire safety duties are met.
One such fire safety duty, is making sure a fire risk assessment is carried out. And once you have had the FRA carried out, you will then need to arrange for it to be regularly reviewed.
What must the responsible person do and what are the legal requirements?
In addition to the aforementioned responsibilities of carrying out a fire risk assessment and reviewing it regularly, the ‘responsible person’ is required to inform staff members or their representatives about the on-site risks that they have identified as a result of the FRA.
As a ‘responsible person’, you must also implement and maintain appropriate fire safety measures on the premises, and put in place emergency plans. Furthermore, you will be expected to provide information, fire safety instruction, and training to your employees using the premises.
What should be included in a fire risk assessment?
An effective fire risk assessment is generally considered to consist of five key steps:
- Identifying the fire hazards on the given site. You will need to ask yourself how a fire could start on the premises for which you are responsible, and what materials on the site might burn in the event of a fire breaking out.
- Identifying people at risk. Although there is no one on-site who would be at zero risk if a fire was to occur, there are certain groups of people who can be especially vulnerable in such an event, including children, the elderly, and disabled people. So, you will need to consider not only who would be at risk, but also who would be at particular risk.
- Evaluating the risks, and taking action to remove or reduce them. The aforementioned steps should have helped give you the information and insight you need into the risks of a fire breaking out, and what risks would be posed to people in the building and close by. This is also the stage at which you will be considering how the risk can be minimised – for example, by keeping any source of fuel and heat/sparks apart.
- Recording the findings, putting together an emergency plan, and providing training. This is a multi-pronged stage of the fire risk assessment, encompassing the recording of any fire hazards you have spotted and what you have done to minimise or remove them, as well as planning how you will help prevent fire on your premises and keep people safe. Staff training, too, is crucial, so that your team members are well-informed on what they need to do if a fire does break out.
- Regularly reviewing and updating the fire risk assessment. As the responsible person, you should also be keeping the FRA under regular review, not least because the risks can evolve over time. If you identify significant changes to the fire risk at your premises, it will be necessary to inform others who use the site of this, and to retrain staff where appropriate.
Types of fire risk assessment
Although many people associate fire risk assessments with commercial properties, they may also be carried out in purpose-built blocks of flats, which represent a particularly distinctive challenge with regard to ensuring fire safety.
The communal areas – or ‘common parts’ – of blocks of flats were only brought within the scope of mainstream fire safety legislation relatively recently. That, in turn, raises the question of just how intrusive an FRA should be in such buildings. Our previous article on purpose-built flats goes into greater detail on the different types of FRA that one may consider for these settings.
Need more information?
The HSE website is a useful tool, click this link for further guidance; https://www.hse.gov.uk/construction/safetytopics/fire.htm
Can we help?
With NEBOSH trained assessors and years of experience in this sector, we, at ACMS UK, are more than happy to help with any concerns you may have. Call us on 0115 922 0600 or email Projects@acmsuk.com
What systems offer the best way to manage fire risk?
With all the above to account for in the management of your fire risk – a task made more challenging if there are several properties for which you are the ‘responsible person’ – you might be eager to look beyond mere ‘pen and paper’ or spreadsheets when seeking the best ways of managing your FRAs and associated responsibilities.
One such solution could be the highly regarded fire risk management platform, making up part of the broader Vision Pro Audit Platform. This platform can greatly help reduce the burden associated with keeping on top of FRAs for individuals and businesses, not least thanks to the consistent, reliable, and up-to-date information about the given premises that it allows users to access and the industry-standard PAS 79 workflow that ensures compliance is met and adhered to. With use of the asset-tagging of emergency equipment, assets and gateways embedded within the fire risk templates, enables users to make better-informed decisions on how to manage and/or reduce fire risk at the sites for which they are responsible.
To learn more about the far-reaching features and benefits of Vision Pro, go to https://www.visionprosoftware.com/software/fire-risk-module/