Fire safety isn’t something that should be left to chance. The devastation and impact caused by fire is huge and not something to be underestimated or left until a fire occurs. Fire Risk Assessments and the mitigation of the risks identified are the responsibility of all employers, building owners, landlords, occupiers and anyone else with the control of premises such as facilities managers, building managers or the managing agents.
Our guide explores how an electronic approach to fire safety can ensure all fire safety procedures are up to date and meet the requirements laid out in the Fire Safety Regulations.
Know the Regulations
In England and Wales the regulation for Fire Safety Management is laid out in the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (also known simply as the Fire Safety Order). In Scotland, the regulation comes under Fire Scotland (2005) Act and Fire Safety (Scotland) Regulations 2006.
For the majority of premises, the responsibility for the enforcement of the regulations is the local fire and rescue authorities. However, the Health and Safety Executive is responsible for fire safety enforcement on construction sites, nuclear premises, ships under construction or undergoing repair. They also have the responsibility for legislation when it comes to the storage of dangerous substances.
Further legislation for this comes under the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 (DSER) which requires employers carry out a risk assessment for the risk of fires resulting from work where dangerous substances are involved.
The regulations state that all employers and building owners are required to carry out a Fire Safety Risk Assessment either as a stand alone exercise or as part of a wider health and safety risk assessment procedure. This risk assessment should identify 3 areas:
- What in the building could cause a fire to start
- Are there any substances in the building which could burn
- Who in the building is as risk if a fire started
Once the risks are identified, there are a further 3 areas which should be examined to determine:
- Can the risk be avoided completely
- If not, can the risk be reduced and managed appropriately
- What protection is in place for people in the event of a fire
The Fire Safety Order replaces all other fire safety legislation. Any person who has some level of control over premises must take reasonable steps to reduce the risk from fire and make sure people can safely escape if there is a fire.
Fire Safety Risk Assessment – 5 Steps
Identify the hazards, who is at risk, evaluate the risk, record the findings, review and revise
In short, a fire safety risk assessment has the purpose of identifying risk and making sure procedures are in place to mitigate those risks to as low as is reasonably practical. Where there is room for improvement, recommendations will be made on how to proceed.
To demonstrate compliance to the standards, you need to understand your responsibilities, what should be included in the inspection and what actions should be taken based on the findings.
A simple 5 step risk assessment process can be followed:
Identify the hazards
When looking at the potential hazards in relation to fire in a building, the assessment will consider the possibility of a fire occurring as a result of that hazard and the scale of the consequences should a fire occur. The hazards which will be considered are anything that is a potential fuel source; any potential ignition sources and all potential oxygen sources. For fire to occur, all three need to be present so the assessment will consider these three key areas as hazards.
Identify who is at risk
This will consider what the building is used form who is in the building and are there any issues in terms of them being able to escape quickly in the event of a fire. For example, multiple people with mobility issues such as a hospital or a care home.
Evaluate, remove or reduce the risk
An evaluation of any risks identified will consider if the fire safety measures in place are adequate to mitigate the risk for each of the hazards identified. This will ensure that there are facilities in place to detect fire and raise the alarm with enough time for all occupants to escape the building. Assessing that fire extinguishers are in place and that they are the right type, sign-posted and located near to the hazard identified. When evaluating each hazard, consideration will be given to the potential for fire to spread quickly throughout the building to ensure that there are enough escape routes for the size of the building and the number of people in the building. In addition, is there emergency lighting to find the escape route and are the escape routes clearly sign-posted. A testing and maintenance regime should also be put in place for all fire safety equipment and records kept of the testing routines and results.
Record findings, prepare an emergency plan and provide training
The findings of the fire safety risk assessment will be recorded and made available on request by the inspecting authority. This record should note what has been inspected and if there were any issues and recommendations made as a result of the inspection.
Review and update regularly
Changes to a building would prompt a review earlier than initially planned. The circumstances which would prompt a change would be:
- Increases in the number of people present in the building at any given time or if the physical attributes of those people changed such as mobility issues
- Any changes in processes involved in carrying out the work in the building or changes in the use of the building including any new equipment that represents a higher risk such as the introduction of hazardous substances which weren’t used previously or changes in the structure and layout of the building
- If situations arise or are noted that the current procedures in place aren’t adequate and need improvement
Electronic System of Record
Where there are 5 or more people working in a building the fire safety risk assessment must be in a written format and maintained. Any paper-based system of record creates a number of issues related to time to complete risk assessments and reports and the integrity of data which could be misinterpreted if unclear or papers could be lost.
The fire safety risk assessment records should include:
- Dare of the risk assessment
- Any hazards identified during the assessment
- Anyone at risk from the hazards identified
- Resulting actions to be taken to minimise or remove the risk from the hazards
- Date the actions need to be completed
- Conclusion of the assessment to complete the report
Recording the findings of an inspection in an electronic format makes capturing the details listed above much easier than in a paper format. A checklist of areas to be inspected can be created in advance to assist the the visual inspection and results captured quickly as an inspector moves around the premises. The resulting actions can be assigned and monitored to completion and recorded all withing the records. Real-time inspection reporting becomes a reality with access by all stakeholders to the information gathered meaning corrective action can be taken quickly.
Completing fire safety risk assessments electronically improves efficiency and accuracy – with 50% savings in time spent on risk assessments and reporting
The major benefit reported to us in working with an electronic system is significant time savings. In particular, risk assessors use to spend 50% of their time on-site and 50% back in the office reporting but with a system, they can spend 100% of their time on-site. The result of this is a level of security among employers and building owners that they have done all that is necessary to meet the regulations they are required to. Importantly they can demonstrate that they are compliant to the regulations quickly and easily when asked for evidence that they have done all they could to mitigate the risk of fire in their building.