What Is A Fire Risk Assessment and Why Is It Important?
The consequences of a fire can be catastrophic. Businesses can crumble (physically and metaphorically), vital resources can be lost and in the worst cases, people can lose their lives. Fire risk assessments can help businesses to drastically reduce their chances of becoming yet another victim of forgotten fire hazards and sub-par safety equipment.
What is a Fire Risk Assessment?
A fire risk assessment refers to conducting a thorough inspection of a premises to ascertain its level of fire risk. The assessment will identify any potential fire hazards that could increase the risk of a fire breaking out and jeopardise the building’s fire safety. It will also recommend appropriate fire safety measures to implement to ensure that the premises is safe and meets legal fire safety regulations. Overall, the main goal of a fire risk assessment is to reduce the risk of a potentially catastrophic fire breaking out.
There are multiple stages involved when carrying out a fire risk assessment:
- Establish the aims of the risk assessment.
- Identify potential fire hazards.
- Decide who could be harmed.
- Evaluate the risks.
- Record the findings.
- Review the assessment.
Fire risk assessments will vary depending on your organisation, but some universal features assessed are:
- The building structure – including building materials, size, layout and what it is used for.
- The presence of equipment or materials that could pose a fire risk – including electrical equipment, portable heaters, lighting and combustible materials.
- Fire protection equipment – including the number and locations of appropriate fire extinguishers, fire alarms, visible safety signs and other protective equipment such as sprinklers, CO alarms and call points. This also includes how well the systems were installed and whether they are maintained adequately.
- Escape routes and evacuation procedures – as well as how well employees are trained to respond to this guidance.
- Proper documentation – of fire safety reports, hazard guidance and protection equipment installation certificates. This is a vital requirement for any organisation and fire safety risk assessment.
It is a legal requirement for all organisations employing five or more people to undertake an appropriate fire risk assessment of their premises. Legal guidelines set out by the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 require a responsible person or competent fire risk assessor (explained below) to not only carry out a comprehensive risk assessment of the fire hazards and safety risks in their premises, but also to:
- Keep detailed written records – this isn’t a requirement for buildings with less than five occupants, but as a general rule of thumb, it is best to keep a detailed written record of everything relating to your organisation’s fire safety risk assessment.
- Develop and implement a personalised fire safety action plan – this can include implementing general fire safety precautions, identifying escape routes, formulating an effective fire identification and evacuation procedure and enforcing mandatory staff training,
- Review and update the fire risk assessment regularly – the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 requires every risk assessment to be reviewed and updated regularly; at least annually or, in the case of any sizeable changes to your building’s structure, purpose or occupants, immediately after. This is to ensure that the assessment is a consistent, accurate reflection of the property.
Who Conducts A Fire Risk Assessment?
A fire safety risk assessment has to be conducted either by a ‘responsible person’ – i.e. the employer, landlord, owner, occupier or person in control of the premises – or a competent fire risk assessor such as MCFP. As the responsible person or risk assessor, you have sole responsibility for ensuring that your premises are fire safety assessed regularly and accurately, complying with necessary legislation and regulation.
Insufficient fire safety precautions and any breaches of regulation can result in penalties ranging from £5,000 to unlimited fines and even a prison sentence. Therefore, it is absolutely vital that your responsible person or fire risk assessor has sufficient knowledge, training and experience to conduct a meticulous fire risk assessment that not only protects your organisation from a fire, but a hefty fine too!
Why Is A Fire Risk Assessment So Important?
It’s a legal obligation
Every business employing five or more staff is required by law to complete a fire risk assessment for their premises and update these documents regularly according to the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. Your local fire and rescue authority can conduct visits to your premises to audit your risk assessment and fire safety policies, procedures and measures. If these are found to be inadequate or in breach of regulation, your organisation can be given a notice or penalty. These penalties can range from £5000 fines to prison sentences, so it’s in your organisation’s best interests to keep your fire safety assessments up to scratch.
Avoids six-figure fines
Back in 2007, retail giant New Look was fined £400,000 after a fire ravaged their Oxford Street store. It required 35 fire engines and 150 firefighters over the course of three days to extinguish the mighty blaze. Similarly, The Co-operative Group were fined £210,000 after a series of severe fire safety breaches was found in one of their Southampton stores. Poor fire safety procedures can cost your business thousands of pounds in fines and even result in prison time. Avoid this by simply ensuring that your risk assessments are thorough, accurate and up-to-date at all times.
Ensures effective fire safety measures
By identifying risks, hazards and fire safety shortcomings, a risk assessment allows you to put in place effective fire safety measures including rapid fire detection procedures, preventative and protective equipment (fire alarms, extinguishers etc.) and swift escape routes. Furthermore, by auditing your equipment as part of the assessment, you can detect any equipment faults and conduct the necessary repairs and maintenance before it’s too late.
Avoids accidents and fatalities
Following on from the above point, fire risk assessments save lives. There were 14 fire-related fatalities and 743 non-fatal casualties in on-residential properties in 2020/21. Considering that most people were working from home during this time due to Covid-19 restrictions, it’s frightening to think of how many accidents and fatalities we may see now that more and more employees are returning to the workplace. Identifying and removing hazards before they become life-threatening is a key part of any fire safety assessment – and a key way of keeping your team alive.
Detects workplace training needs
Equipping your team with essential skills to prevent fires in the first place, as well as deal with one effectively if it should occur, is never a bad idea. Fire safety training protects your employees, customers, building and business as a whole. Detecting shortcomings in your staff’s fire safety training is a key element of any fire risk assessment, allowing you to build a knowledgeable and capable team who know their wet chemical fire extinguishers from their ABC powder ones.
Safeguard your business
Not only can fires cost people their lives, but they can cost businesses six-figure fines, their reputation and their customer loyalty. Avoid crippling financial losses and a tarnished reputation by ensuring that your business’ fire safety is always up to scratch with a thorough risk assessment.
Fire Risk Assessments from MCFP
There’s enough to worry about when running a business, so let MCFP take a weight off your shoulders by being your designated fire risk assessor. Our team of BAFE registered fire safety professionals are impeccably trained and highly experienced, making us the perfect third-party team to carry out your next fire risk assessment.
One of our assessors will conduct a thorough survey of your premises, fire policies, procedures and current fire safety measures. From this, we devise a full report which is delivered to you electronically. Should any shortfalls be identified during the risk assessment, we will provide extensive guidance on what safety measures to implement in order to become compliant with fire safety regulations and legislation.
Better yet, we not only inform you of what fire safety measures and procedures to put into place, but we can supply, install and maintain them for you too. As well as fire risk assessments, at MCFP we also provide a variety of fire safety and security services including fire alarms, fire extinguishers, intruder alarms, CCTV and fire training. We are even a registered installer of the Plumis Automist® SmartScan – an innovative, sophisticated and award-winning sprinkler system designed for enhanced fire protection. With MCFP, you get all of your fire safety services from a single provider – it couldn’t be easier.