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Fire Risk Assessments: The Ins and Outs

Starting a new business? Moved offices? Need to update your Health and Safety admin? Fire Risk Assessments are one of the first things an employer needs to think about when opening up an office.

What is a fire risk assessment? What does it include? Who has to carry out a fire assessment? How often do I need to carry it out?

Just a few of the questions that employers ask, and we're here to help answer your questions!


Let’s start with Do I need a fire risk assessment?

If you have business/commercial/non-domestic premises, the answer is almost certainly yes

Who is responsible?

You are responsible for fire safety in business or other non-domestic premises if you are:

  • an employer

  • the owner

  • the landlord

  • an occupier

  • anyone else with control of the premises. For example, a facilities manager, building manager, managing agent, or risk assessor

You’re known as the ‘responsible person’. If there’s more than one responsible person, you have to work together to meet your responsibilities.

The Fire Safety Order also applies if you have paying guests, for example, if you run a bed and breakfast, guesthouse, or let a self-catering property.

Now, understanding who is the responsible person can be a bit confusing. When I was having some training at the Fire Service College I asked this question to them. Their answer was universal: they will start with the person that is in control of the premises when they arrive. That may well be you.

Our advice here is to find out who is in control of the premises and go from there!

Responsible person’s responsibilities:

As the Responsible Person you will need to:

  • carry out a fire risk assessment of the premises and review it regularly

  • tell staff or their representatives about the risks you’ve identified

  • put in place, and maintain appropriate fire safety measures

  • plan for an emergency

  • provide staff information, fire safety instruction, and training


Shared premises

In shared premises, it’s likely there will be more than one responsible person. You’ll need to coordinate your fire safety plans to make sure people on or around the premises are safe.

For common or shared areas, the responsible person is the landlord, freeholder or managing agent.


What is a Fire Risk Assessment?

A Fire Risk Assessment will identify what you need to do to prevent a fire and keep people safe.

It is made up of five parts:

  1. Identify the fire hazards - What could cause a fire?

  2. Identify people at risk - Staff, visitors, contractors, the public, disabled people.

  3. Evaluate, remove or reduce the risks - Consider how great the risk is, what you can do to reduce that risk and whether what you are doing is sufficient.

  4. Record your findings - Prepare an emergency plan and provide training.

  5. Review and update the fire risk assessment regularly - You must review after any changes to your premises if you have any fire incidents and periodically (depending on the level of risk.)

If there are five or more employees you HAVE to record your significant findings. My view here is that it is hard to demonstrate that you have carried out the assessment if it is not recorded. It is always best to record your assessment.

This is explained further here.


What should I consider when carrying out a Fire Risk Assessment?

Minimally you will need to consider the following:

  1. Emergency routes and exits - Have you got a suitable route through the building and out through fire doors and exits?

  2. Fire detection and warning systems - How are you going to detect a fire in the first place and how are you going to raise the alarm?

  3. Fire fighting equipment - Are fire extinguishers enough and what kind do you need?

  4. The removal or safe storage of dangerous substances - i.e petrol or other flammable items.

  5. An emergency fire evacuation plan - How do staff and others get out and where do they go?

  6. The needs of vulnerable people, for example: the elderly, young children, or those with disabilities - If you have disabled people on the above-ground floors, how are you getting them out of the building or to a place of safety? (most lifts are not to be used in a fire) It is important to know that you are required by law to have a plan that DOES NOT include assistance from the Fire and Rescue Service.

  7. Providing information to employees and other people on the premises - Tell your staff about all these things.

  8. Staff fire safety training - Fire drills, fire wardens, extinguisher training.


Help with the assessment

You can do the fire risk assessment yourself - the link below will guide you to some simple guides for premises.

Be very careful, if you don’t have the expertise to do the fire risk assessment yourself, you need to appoint a ‘competent person’ to help, for example, a professional Fire Risk assessor.

Your local fire and rescue authority might be able to give you advice if you’re not sure your risk assessment’s been carried out properly. However, they can’t carry out risk assessments for you.

It may be really sensible to liaise with your Fire and Rescue Service as they can offer sound advice on many areas

All this information and more is available here.


Does your business need help with carrying out your Fire Risk Assessments? We can help! We have highly qualified assessors available to help you and can provide a variety of Fire Safety services:

  • Fire Risk assessment

  • Building capacity and fire exit requirements

  • Fire extinguisher requirements

  • Fire management procedures

  • Evacuation strategies

  • Emergency procedures

  • Fire marshal training

  • Fire extinguisher training

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