Fire Risk Assessments are now a legal requirement for all businesses in the UK. The law changed in 2006 and all employers are now obliged to assess the risk of fire in their work premises and put in place measures to manage and minimise any risks identified. This is an important change which sends a clear message to employers that they are the ones who are responsible for the safety of their employees in terms of fire risks. Part of the duties of the local fire authorities is now to check and make sure that all employers have complied with this legislation. That usually involves asking to see a copy of the fire risk assessment. |
Legislation is already in place covering the need to carry out risk assessments generally in the workplace, and the fire risk assessment is based on the same principles. There is a recommended process to go through, but the purpose, as with all risk assessments, is to identify all possible risks to people and take steps to reduce the chances of those things happening.
No formal training or qualification is required in order to carry out a Fire risk assessment; the legislation governing them states that they should be undertaken by a 'competent person'. It is perfectly reasonable to carry out your own assessment, provided you have a reasonable knowledge of fire safety and a relatively straightforward workplace. It would not be recommended for assessing a very large, complex or specialist premises unless the person doing so does have a strong background knowledge of fire safety requirements.
For smaller, office type environments, most people will carry out their fire risk assessments in-house. The system to follow is a relatively simple five step process. The steps involved are identifying potential hazards, identifying the people who are at risk from these risk hazards, evaluating the risks, and then recording your findings. The fifth step is to review the fire risk assessment at regular intervals.
There is clearly a lot more involved in the details of each step of this process, but free advice and guidance is available online to help with this. The important thing is to act on the findings of the assessment. If the process identifies a risk with potentially severe consequences and a reasonably high likelihood of it happening, you clearly need to take steps to manage that risk. As well as recording the findings of your FRA, you are also obliged by law to pass on the details of these findings to your staff. You must also ensure that all your staff are properly trained in what action to take in an emergency, use of fire fighting equipment, etc.
For many businesses, the work involved in carrying out fire risk assessments and implementing the associated action points can be a daunting prospect. Sometimes this is simply due to the lack of time and often it is due to not having the appropriate expertise within the business to be sure of undertaking the work competently.
Fire Safety Consultants are frequently used by employers to undertake all or part of their fire safety responsibilities. This can include carrying out fire risk assessments, training staff and even writing health and safety manuals and emergency plans. There are many such specialist companies now operating in the UK, the best of which are led by very experienced ex-fire service personnel.
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