Assessing fire risks in the workplace

A fire risk assessment is a means of assisting a business owner or responsible person comply with statute law, and in doing so ascertain (so far as is reasonably practicable) any protective measures that may be necessary to protect their workforce, property, and other people who may be affected by their undertakings.

An effective means of assessing and managing risk is a crucial element of an organisation’s fire safety policy, and such risks can only be managed if an effective fire risk assessment is carried out to work from.

Risk assessments help a company to identify not only areas of strength, but also areas of weakness, and in doing so, will aid the senior management to put procedures in place to deal with any eventuality, along with helping to reinforce a positive health and safety culture within the workforce.

The law relating to fire risk assessments

Under the  ‘health and safety at work act 1974’ employers are obligated to understand the inherent risks relating to the work that they may be carrying out, and also (so far as is reasonably practicable) put measures in place to safeguard their workforce and anyone else who may be affected by their undertakings, seeking competent advice where appropriate.

These duties are further enhanced by ‘the management of health and safety at work act 1999’ and ‘the regulatory reform (fire safety) order 2005’, which both make specific requirements on business owners and ‘responsible persons’, in particular the need to assess any risks that may be present, and put suitable control measures in place to deal with them.

There is also a duty under all three regulations to assess the risks involved with the storage, use and transportation of hazardous or dangerous substance, particularly from a fire safety point of view.

How does risk assessment relate to self employed persons?

Along with employers, self employed persons are also required to carry out suitable and sufficient risk assessments relevant to the tasks that they are going to undertake and how they will affect others who may be present in their working area.

What is a ‘suitable and sufficient’ assessment?

In order for an assessment to be deemed ‘sufficient’ it must ;

  • Identify any significant risks/hazards relating to the work that is being carried out
  • Identify the people who may be at risk
  • Identify any existing control measures
  • Identify any measures that may be required in order to further control the risk, along with any time scales that may be required to complete the remedial works.
  • Provide details of when the assessment will need to be reviewed.

Who would be competent to carry out an assessment?

Assessments should be carried out by a competent person, in more complex premises this may need to be a specialist, but in general the assessor should have suitable knowledge, training, experience, and also any relevant qualifications.

How would an assessment be carried out?

Normally the government approved ‘five steps to risk assessment’ procedure would be followed.

This would mean that the assessor, whilst carrying out their inspection, would;

  • Identify any hazards or risks that may be present
  • Decide who is at risk and how they may be harmed
  • Evaluate the risks and existing control measures, and decide whether more needs to be done
  • Record any significant findings
  • Review and revise the assessment as necessary.

This information would then be documented, and normally be used to devise an action plan, along with timescales to complete any remedial works that may be required.

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