• Fire safety at work-Fire risk assessment

      If you are in control of any part of a commercial premises you are under a legal obligation to carry out a detailed fire risk assessment to identifying risks and hazards in the premises. A fire risk assessment is essential in keeping your premises safe for everyone.
      There are five steps to carrying out a risk assessment.
      Your fire risk assessment has to be carried out by a competent person with relevant fire safety knowledge and experience.
      A guide to help you chose the right Fire Risk Assessor has been put together by the the Fire Risk Assessment Competency Council to help premises comply with the applicable fire safety legislation.

      Step 1 of 5 - Identifying the fire hazards

      For fire to occur there must be a source of ignition, fuel and oxygen. If all three are present and in close proximity, then the fire risk could increase as a result.
      Your fire risk assessment should list all potential sources of ignition and fuels that are present in your premises. 
      Potential sources of ignition include:
      • Naked flames: cigarettes, matches, pilot lights, gas/oil heaters, gas welding, cookers etc.
      • Hot surfaces: heaters, engines, boilers, machinery, lighting (for example, halogen lamps), electrical equipment etc. 
      • Hot work: welding, grinding, flame cutting. 
      • Friction: drive belts, worn bearings etc. 
      • Sparks: static electricity, metal impact, grinding, electrical contacts/switches etc. 
      • Arson, for example, deliberate ignition.
       Anything that burns is a potential source of fuel, these can be:
      • Solids: textiles, wood, paper, card, plastics, rubber, PU foam, furniture, fixtures/fittings, packaging, waste materials etc.
      • Liquids: solvents (petrol, white spirit, methylated spirits, paraffin, thinners etc), paints, varnish, adhesives etc.
      • Gases: LPG, acetylene.

      Step 2 of 5 - Identifying people at risk

      Fire risk assessment in relation to people is broken down into four main areas. All four of these areas should be considered during your fire safety assessment. 
      • The likely speed of growth and spread of any fire, heat and smoke
      • The number of people in the area including visitors and members of the public
      • Arrangements for giving warning to people if a fire occurs 
      • How they will make their escape - this area needs to take into account people's mobility

      Individual smoking risk assessments in care homes

      In care homes an individual smoking risk assessments should be carried out for each resident in the home. This is done to assess the risk an individual's smoking poses to themselves and others, and to establish how the risks can.

      Step 3 of 5 - Evaluating the risks

      Once the hazards and the people at risk have been identified, you must assess the effect of any particular hazards, taking account of any existing control measures that are already in place.
      When your evaluation is complete you must decide if any further control measures are needed to reduce the risk to safe level.
      Further control measures may:
      • Reduce the possibility of ignition.
      • Minimise the potential fuel load in the premises. 
      • Assist people to escape.
      They may fall into a number of different categories, such as: 
      • Fire safety management systems. 
      • Means of escape. 
      • Staff training. 
      • Fire warning systems. 
      • Means of fighting fire.
      If issues are identified, an action plan, including timescales and responsibilities, must be included to show how the problem is being addressed. 
      Modern buildings should already incorporate important control measures to meet the requirements of the building regulations.
      If your building was issued with a fire certificate under the Fire Precautions Act, details of existing control measures will be detailed in that document.
      You should include details of these existing control measures in your fire risk assessment. Remember, a full understanding and evaluation of the existing control measures is essential - it is your starting point for deciding if any further action is necessary.
      You should plan, control, monitor and review all the fire safety arrangements.

      Step 4 of 5 - Recording your findings

      You must record the significant findings of your risk assessment, together with details of any people that are at particular risk, where:
      • A license under an enactment is in force. 
      • An Alterations Notice under the Fire Safety Order requires it. 
      • You are an employer and have five or more employees.
      More importantly, the record must show whether the existing control measures are adequate and, if not, what further action is required to reduce the risk to an acceptable level.
      Remember to make sure any control measures identified or introduced remain effective by testing and maintaining them regularly. For larger premises you are encouraged to include a simple floor plan in your fire risk assessment. You can use the plan to record fire hazards and control measures in a simple format that is easily understood.

      Step 5 of 5 - Reviewing and revising the risk assessment

      Remember your fire risk assessment is a continuous process. It must be monitored and audited as changes to your premises are made. New and existing control measures should be maintained to make sure they are still working effectively.  
      You don't need to amend your assessment for every trivial change that occurs, but the impact of any significant change should be considered.
      Some examples of changes that might affect your assessment might be:
      • A new work process may introduce additional fuels or ignition sources. 
      • Changes to furniture layout or internal partitions could affect the ability for occupants to see a fire and escape in time. 
      • Increasing the number of people may mean that a fire exit is now too small to cope with their escape within a safe period. 
      • Occupying another floor of the building may mean that an electrical fire warning system is now necessary.

      Best of luck with your fire risk assessment

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