Why a Fire Risk Assessment is important for fire safety and how to conduct one for your business
Fire risk assessments are a critical task for both small and large businesses. By identifying risks and taking steps to mitigate them, you reduce the overall risks faced by your staff and help to protect your assets. Conducting regular Fire Risk Assessments (FRAs) is necessary and keeping a written record is a legal requirement for businesses with five or more staff, but it’s good practice for all companies. Fines for fire safety offences can range from up to £5,000 for minor offences, or unlimited fines and a prison sentence for major offences. These penalties show the seriousness of getting the right processes and expertise in place to proactively manage fire safety.
Who can conduct fire risk assessments?
Businesses should identify a ‘competent person’ to carry out a fire risk assessment of their premises and review it regularly, making necessary changes where needed. HSE determines a ‘competent person’ as someone who ‘has sufficient training and experience or knowledge’ to meet the requirements of health and safety law. They may be the business owner, a health and safety or facilities manager, or an appointed external professional risk assessor.
How do you conduct a Fire Risk Assessment?
Conducting a Fire Risk Assessment essentially covers identifying fire safety risks and mitigating them. There are five key elements to consider:
Identify potential fire hazards.
Potential fire hazards will vary widely depending on the business’ activities. While faulty business equipment, premises lighting and electrics may be the biggest risks for one business, dangerous substances used or stored at another will bring entirely different risks. For this reason, it is important to ensure the assessment is appropriate to the specific business and you also consider buildings nearby and any high-risk factors they might present.
Identify who might be at risk.
When considering who might be at risk consider not just staff, but also visitors to your premises. This might include suppliers, customers and other stakeholders. The assessment should include any vulnerable employees or visitors. They may need special consideration in the event of an emergency, for example children, the elderly or those with disabilities.
Evaluate, remove or mitigate risks.
Evaluate the identified hazards. Where risks can be reasonably removed they should be, and where the risk remains mitigation actions should be identified and acted upon.
Record your significant findings, prepare a plan in case of emergency and provide necessary training.
By making a record of the significant findings from the fire risk assessment, the key hazards, who they are likely to affect, and the controls put in place to reduce the risk, the business is ensuring effective control of the risks identified. A plan should be prepared in case of emergency, considering emergency routes and exits, fire detection and warning equipment and fire-fighting equipment, as well as emergency fire evacuation plans. In addition, fire safety training and information should be provided for staff, as well as information briefings for visitors to the premises.
Review and maintain the fire risk assessment.
It is good practice to diarise the next review after each assessment or review is completed, so other priorities don’t get in the way. An additional review should be conducted after an incident or near miss, to ensure that the existing risk assessment, mitigation plans and prevention processes are effective.
Who should you involve in a Fire Risk Assessment?
As with all effective health and safety practices it is vital to get input from employees, in fact for larger businesses it is mandatory. Staff will have a different perspective on the dangers they encounter in their work. They will, therefore, identify additional risks which may need mitigation actions, or controls putting in place. You may also want to involve specific types of visitors to ensure the risks they encounter are also considered, for example supplier delivery drivers entering a site and using facilities whilst waiting to unload.
Are there Fire Risk Assessment templates available?
Although only companies with five or more staff are legally required to keep a record of the FRA, using a template can make conducting the assessment much easier for everyone. Whether you use a template or not, there is no need to write a lengthy report, it should be in concise note form and give clear actions and controls. HSE offer a number of industry specific templates which you can access online. If you select the most appropriate template and tailor it for your specific business, considering additional hazards or people who may be affected, will ensure the template doesn’t miss out any key risk factors.
Still need some help with your Fire Risk Assessments?
If the many commercial pressures mean fire risk assessments and reviews are at risk of falling down the business agenda, appointing an external advisor to support with these activities will keep you on track. With effective risk assessment, mitigation actions and emergency plans in place, you can ensure your staff and business assets are as safe as possible, as well as meeting your legal obligations.
Sure Safety Consultancy offers a fully managed Fire Risk Assessment and ‘competent person’ solution for businesses who don’t have the necessary expertise or experience to conduct them internally. If you would like to hear more about our fire risk assessment or health and safety consultancy services, please contact us by email or call us on 029 2086 8802.