Fire risk assessment competence is a burning issue

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Fire risk assessment is a critical activity for all businesses, regardless of the industry. Without eliminating the sources and potential trigger of fires, your business is exposed to a multitude of hazards that could not only prove costly financially but could put human life in danger. This is why it is critical to protect your business by carrying out a fire risk assessment.

The problem

In 2012/13 there were 20,300 fires in buildings other than dwellings, this was 11% of all fires dealt with by the Fire Brigade, according to Fire Statistics Monitor. In fires other than dwelling fires there were 103 fire fatalities. Given that a large proportion of organisations suffering a disruption to business continuity as a result of fire are known to go out of business altogether, this is a significant area to consider for all businesses.

Swift and effective responses to take corrective action and escape the effects of fire are necessary to lessen harm to property, the environment and people from the potential outcomes of such an adverse event.

Mitigating measures to make less likely the event of a fire and the consequences should be considered, actioned and documented in a fire risk assessment.

Competency Considerations

To consider carrying out the fire risk assessment, the assessor should have an understanding of such matters as  the causes of fire, fire prevention issues, human behaviour in emergency situations, basic principles of fire safety, relevant British Standards and relevant guidance, passive and active fire protection systems, factors associated with people at special risk (the young, the elderly, or disabled) an understanding of fire development, fire safety legislation and the process of fire risk assessment.

The assessor will need to systematically review all parts of the premises including areas not normally seen or easily accessible, for the risk assessment to be completed adequately. People who have knowledge of equipment, processes and building facilities must provide relevant information to the risk assessor.

A team approach to formulate the risk assessment is recommended particularly for larger premises.  This will enable all knowledge and expertise to be brought together. Assistance in achieving an adequate fire risk assessment from the trained fire wardens and/or fire marshals, who have experience in the areas in which they have their role, will be invaluable.

Informing and Documenting a Fire Risk Assessment

If the workplace is small then a simple format for the risk assessment may be sufficient. It is essential to ensure that whoever conducts the risk assessment has sufficient competency to do so, in the form of relevant skills, knowledge, ability, training and experience.

It will be important to talk to employees and safety representatives in addition to receiving advice from in-house specialists or fire safety consultants, to receive the benefits of their knowledge and experience where identified as a requirement.

All the employers, occupiers or anyone who has control of part of the premises in a shared building, must coordinate their fire safety arrangements. In sharing the findings of fire risk assessments, this is achieved. This allows employers sharing the building to take account of any serious risks elsewhere in the building when completing their fire risk assessment, designing their own emergency arrangements and escape procedures and fulfils the legal requirement to share information on the risks.

Avensure’s unique health and safety support solution, H&S Assist ©, is here to offer you the benefit of highly qualified health and safety experts, who have the tools, knowledge and experience to enable you to achieve full compliance – and more importantly, to offer optimum protection to your employees and business.

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Elena Boura