The UK fire law Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 requires businesses to carry out risk assessments and with good reason, your fire safety risk assessment is a hugely important component of health and safety policy. It’s one of the first things you should do whenever planning out your strategy to ensure your employees are safe while they’re at work. In short, the risk assessment is what informs the rest of your plans; without it, you would not be able to put in place the right policies, such as evacuation routes, fire safety equipment and other considerations.
It can be helpful when conducting the assessment to have a checklist to work through. This will help ensure that you’ve thought about everything. With this in mind, we’ve put together this list, informed by the five steps that all authorities recommend when carrying out a good risk assessment.
The first thing on your checklist will be to identify all of the potential fire hazards that you can find in the premises you’re responsible for. In order to do this, it’s always worth familiarising yourself with how fires start. They require three things; oxygen, fuel and a source of ignition. There’s very little you can do about oxygen, so you will therefore be looking for points at which fuel (anything that might burn) could come into contact with a source of heat (which is the ignition).
Go around the premises. Have you found anything that you believe to be a significant risk of being fuel for a fire? This could be rubbish, stores, stacked boxes of paper or anything else. Note anything you see down.
Next you’ll want to identify any potential sources of heat. Cigarettes are one of the most common causes of fire, but any kind of naked flame or significant heat could potentially start a fire. Record all of them that you’re concerned about.
Now that you have a better understanding of what might cause a fire, you need to consider who might be at risk if a fire does start. As a general rule, everyone in the premises is going to be at risk, which includes visitors as well as employees. However, it’s important to remember that some people may be more at risk than others. Those who are working alone for example might be in a more dangerous situation if a fire breaks out and is not discovered quickly. You need to note these people down.
Similarly, there are those who will find evacuation more difficult, such as the elderly, children, and those with disabilities. They will need special consideration when it comes to planning escape routes and the escape procedure.
Using the information you’ve gathered in the first two steps of the checklist, you need to evaluate the risks that you’ve found. Are you confident that you are aware of the most likely ways that a fire might break out? When you have this information, you’ll be able to act on it, by doing things such as keeping sources of heat and fuel apart. It’s far better to take steps to prevent a fire than plan for when one occurs.
Go through your checklist of hazards and ensure you’ve considered each one, and go through the individuals at risk too - have you thought about how to keep them safe?
Make sure that all of the information you find is recorded, and document your responses too. This will help you to build a more robust plan, which will reduce the chances of a fire happening in the first place, as well as helping to develop things as time goes on and situations change.
As part of recording and planning, you must also make sure that everyone is aware of the information identified and the policy created as a result of the fire risk assessment. Give everyone that needs it training, and keep important information such as escape routes publicly visible.
The final step on your checklist is something that you’ll need to keep coming back to, and that’s the review. Set a date to regularly look at your assessment checklist and decide if anything has changed that means you need to update the plan. Has the building changed in any way? Has the workforce changed significantly? Have any new hazards appeared? Has there been an incident that needs to be taken into account?
For further information on carrying out a fire risk assessment, our fire safety training will be beneficial. Find out more here.