Whether you’re a business owner or a private landlord, you are responsible for carrying out a fire risk assessment. It is vital in order to fully comply with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
Completing a fire risk assessment will help you to fully understand all aspects of the business and the premises. And as every business is unique, you’ll need a specific risk assessment carried out on your individual premises.
You will discover potential hazards you didn’t realise in the day-to-day operations of the business, which can be overcome with a simple change.
Having in place a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment will ensure you have appropriate fire precautions and an emergency plan in place. That way, you’re not only reducing the risk, but also preparing staff in the event of a fire.
And thankfully, fire risk assessments don’t have to cause a headache.
What Is A Fire Risk Assessment?
There are five stages to a fire risk assessment.
- Identify fire hazards – These are the potential sources of ignition and fuel. These may include heaters, electrical equipment, and naked flames, as well as packaging, rubbish, and furniture. If bottled oxygen is used anywhere, then it is also a potential hazard.
- Identify people at risk – Not only are the people in the premises considered, but also those nearby. Additionally, consider anyone who may be especially at risk such as children, the disabled, and elderly.
- Evaluate and act – Now you can eradicate and reduce the risks as far as is reasonably practical by separating things that can burn from those which can start a fire. Then protect people by providing fire precautions.
- Record, plan, and train – Record major findings and actions (especially if you employ five or more people), discuss findings with other ‘responsible persons’ to share information and coordinate, and then prepare an emergency plan.
- Review – Make sure it is updated to reflect any changes that have occurred.
Fire Safety Equipment
Your fire safety risk assessment is going to show the need for fire detection and firefighting equipment. And likewise, they are also going to be vital to you complying with the fire safety regulations.
Your fire detection can range from a shouted warning with an air horn in a simple single-storey premises, to an electrical detection and warning system covering a larger premises.
It must be able to warn people in all circumstances of an emergency situation so they can evacuate as quickly as possible. Therefore, in a large building, an alarm given from a single point is unlikely to be heard.
That’s where fire alarm systems are effective, incorporating multiple detection and call-point locations, with sounders located throughout, likely to be the only solution.
And the scale of the premises is also going to influence your decisions on fire extinguishers.
As a rule of thumb, you should have an extinguisher for every 200 square metres of floor space, with a least one on every floor. So in small premises, one or two appropriate extinguishers may be all that is necessary. Whereas, in larger or more complex premises, a number of portable extinguishers will be required in the suitable locations.
With your extinguishers, ensure they are accompanied by the appropriate extinguisher identification sign, and that all staff are familiar with how to use them and where to find them. Your extinguishers are also going to need annual servicing, carried out by a professional engineer.
The Emergency Plan
The purpose of the plan is to ensure all staff know what to do if there is a fire, and is available for all staff, customers, and visitors if requested.
This can range from a simple fire action notice to a detailed and complex plan covering the whole building, taking into account various possibilities, and even including who calls the fire services.
You then test the plan by carrying out a fire drill to evaluate its effectiveness. Not only is it better to know of potential issues before it is too late, but it will also familiarise people with the plan.
It will also detail the emergency escape routes. But these need to still be obvious to those who have not read the plan, which is achieved through signs directing them to safety.
These routes need to be kept clear of obstacles and have sufficient lighting, including backup lighting should the power fail when it is dark. Generally, there will need to be at least two escape routes, although the specific requirement will depend on size, layout, and your risk assessment.
When new staff join, and on an annual basis, all employees need to be given an explanation of the fire procedures, where to find equipment, and how to use it.
You should also designate a few trustworthy members of staff to become fire wardens. After receiving their additional training, they’ll then help you to promote good fire safety practices around the workplace, as well as aid during fire drills and actual emergencies.
But the foundations for everything mentioned come from carrying out a fire risk assessment, as it is the only way to truly know you have done everything possible.
You can carry this out yourself if you feel competent enough, but many business owners, employers, and landlords choose to hire a professional fire risk assessor. This is because it saves them time and hassle, but it also comes with peace of mind that nothing has been missed and that your premises are as safe as possible.