Carrying Out a Fire Risk Assessment Can Be Very Complicated

BusinessManagement

  • Author Graham Nicholson
  • Published September 15, 2019
  • Word count 700

All businesses must carry out a fire assessment concerning the risk of fire on the premises and the evacuation of people there if a fire should start. This is a legal requirement under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. There are penalties for failing to do this, and they can include fines and even imprisonment. The assessment must be carried out by the responsible person, who may be the employer, a landlord, the owner of the business, an occupier, or anyone else with control of the premises, such as a building manager or managing agent.

As the responsible person you must identify the fire hazards; identify people at risk; evaluate, remove or reduce the risks; record your findings, prepare an emergency plan and provide training; and review and update the fire risk assessment regularly.

Things that you need to take into consideration are:

• emergency routes and exits

• fire detection and warning systems

• firefighting equipment

• the removal or safe storage of dangerous substances

• an emergency fire evacuation plan

• the needs of vulnerable people, for example the elderly, young children or those with disabilities

• providing information to employees and other people on the premises

• staff fire safety training.

Of course, if you run a small retail shop – say a convenience store or a greengrocer – the risks may be small. For example, a greengrocer's stock – while it can burn – is not highly flammable and is not likely to catch fire by itself. There may only be a handful of employees, and there may just be a front door into the shop and a rear exit. What you do have to do, of course, is to ensure that the path to the rear door is open and not cluttered up with piles of boxes of apples and tomatoes which could impede evacuation in the case of fire.

However, when it comes to larger premises, a fire risk assessment can be extremely challenging. This is especially true if you have a large factory with a lot of employees using machinery, and you may even have a site with a lot of different departments in different buildings on it, in a similar way to a large school which has different buildings housing the chemistry lab, physics department, gym, library, and perhaps even a sanatorium, and so on.

You could also have an office building with staff spread over several different floors in different departments. There are just so many things to take into consideration when making a fire assessment. For example, what happens if you have a disabled visitor who has to visit an office on the fifth floor in a wheelchair and fire breaks out? How do you get that visitor out of the building safely? You have to allow for that.

The government provides a list of different guides that you can access to help you with a fire risk assessment which is aimed at a wide range of different premises. The list is as follows:

• offices and shops

• factories and warehouses

• sleeping accommodation

• residential care premises

• educational premises

• small and medium places of assembly (holding 300 people or less)

• large places of assembly (holding more than 300 people)

• theatres, cinemas and similar premises

• open air events and venues

• healthcare premises

• animal premises and stables

• transport premises and facilities

To give you an idea of how complex this all is, let's take the first one – offices and shops. Leaving aside the list of references and further reading (!) the guide runs to 132 pages! The one on animal premises and stables runs to 150 pages.

The simple fact is that most businessmen really wouldn't know how to carry out a risk assessment taking all these different factors into account, and what's more, most of them are too busy running their businesses to take the time to learn all that.

The good news is that there are companies out there who DO understand all that and whose people are trained in fire risk assessment and who can undertake the assessment of your premises for you and provide you with the written report the law requires you to keep. This is a far simpler way of keeping you and your employees safe and complying with the law at the same time.

UK-FireRisk Assessments is a Nottinghamshire based company that can undertake fire assessment nationwide. The company's assessors have all undertaken Fire Risk Assessment training at the Fire Service College in Moreton in Marsh in Gloucestershire.

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