Fundamentally, all businesses should be committed to providing a safe working environment for their employees, with any potential fire hazards removed to prevent injury or loss of life.
Yet every month companies are heavily fined for failing to comply with fire safety regulations under the Regulation Reform order 2005 section 9. Minor penalties can be a fine of up to £5,000. Major penalties can have unlimited fines and up to 2 years in prison.
Just recently (Aug 2019) Ashgate Property Developments Ltd were fined £36,000 and forced to pay prosecution costs of £12,000. (source: Fire Industry Association). They were not alone, nor did their fine come close to others that have been handed out for non-compliance in recent years.
Businesses that employ 5 people or more are legally required to carry out an appropriate and adequate fire risk assessment.
A fire risk assessment is an organised and methodical review of your business premises, the activities undertaken which could pose a fire hazard and the risks to your employees.
The responsibility of the fire risk assessment falls on the “Responsible Person”. If you would like to know if you are the responsible person, then take a look at our article here.
While every business will have a different set of risks, requirements and solutions to ensure they are compliant, there are 5 recommended steps that the Responsible Person should use as a process and record the findings when undertaking a Fire Safety Assessment.
STEP 1 – IDENTIFYING FIRE HAZARDS
Fires start when heat comes into contact with fuel, so it is vital to keep sources of ignition and fuel apart.
At this stage, review how a fire could start. Analyse your business equipment, processes, work activities and the overall environment of your workplace. Think about heaters, lighting, naked flames, electrical equipment, hot processes (such as welding or grinding), cigarettes, matches and anything else that gets very hot or causes sparks
Next review what could act as a source of fuel. Packaging, waste and furniture are just as likely to fuel a fire as the more obvious sources of fuel such as petrol, paint, varnish and white spirit. Think about the less obvious fuel sources such as wood, plastic, rubber and foam. Do the walls or ceilings have hardboard, chipboard for example.
TIP! - Ensure that you record in detail any sources that could potentially ignite a fire and any materials that could fuel a blaze.
STEP 2 - REVIEW PEOPLE AT RISK
Everyone is at risk from fire to some extent. The goal at this stage is to make a comprehensive list of your workforce, who they are, where they work, what their tasks involve. Consider if the risk is greater for some because of the nature of their work, familiarity with the premises and physical restrictions such as you may find with children, disabled people, or the elderly.
TIP - Create a list of your workforce and identify those who may be at greater risk than others, and why.
STEP 3 – EVALUATE, REMOVE, REDUCE & PROTECT FROM RISK
Now it’s time to consider your findings from Steps 1 & 2.
The management of your premises could also affect your evaluation. If you’re based in a building which is multi-occupied, you will need to co-operate with the Responsible Person in the other organisations within the building, along with the Landlords or Agents.
Next you need to evaluate your findings and identify the risk areas for a fire starting. This could be where accidents are most likely to happen, areas where waste has been allowed to accumulate or opportunities for arson attacks (such as external bins being placed too close to the buildings).
Using your information from Step 2, now it’s time to evaluate the actual risk to people, should a fire start. Work through every scenario, especially those unlikely, but possible, fire risks.
With the fire hazards identified, you now have to act to remove or reduce the risk of fire, by ensuring that adequate fire precautions are in place to warn people in the event of a fire, and allow them to safely escape. This needs to be comprehensive and include a full break down from how will you be alerted to fire, where fire equipment is located and escape routes.
Tip! - The removal or reduction of the fire hazards must be prioritized at this stage and you should not move on any further with your Fire Safety Assessment until you have put measures in please.
STEP 4 – RECORD, PLAN AND TRAIN
Having acted upon your assessment, you must make a record of your activities. There is a legal requirement to do this and your significant findings should include such details as:
- Fire hazards you have identified
Actions you have taken to remove or reduce the chance of a fire occurring
- Persons at all levels of risk
- Actions you have taken to reduce the risk to people from the spread of fire and smoke.
- What people need to do in the event of a fire
Details of people nominated to carry out a particular function
- The information, instruction and training you have identified that people will require.
All the information, taken from your Fire Risk Assessment will form the basis of your Emergency Plan and should be communicated (or be made available) to all your employees and everyone identified in your review.
Your plan will need to cover any fire situation and must ensure that people know what to do if there is a fire and that the premises can be safely evacuated.
Communicating the plan will only go so far. You will also need to ensure everyone is trained in what they should do, should a fire occur. This extends from what to do if you discover a fire, to specific training for key personal with key roles such as a nominated Fire Warden.
STEP 5 – REVIEW
As your business evolves, new staff will join, key personnel with fire safety roles may leave, or new hazards may arise, so it’s vital to regularly evaluate your plan. You should consider your Fire Risk Assessment as an ongoing activity that develops with your business activities, premises and team.
TIP – It won’t be necessary to amend your assessment for every small change, but if a change introduces new hazards you should consider them and, if significant, do whatever you need to do to keep the risks under control.
Before undertaking the 5 Steps, it is worth considering if you have the right experience and expertise to correctly undertake the assessment.
In delivering your plan, particularly the preventive and protective measures identified in your assessment, you must ensure that they are implemented by a competent person.
A competent person is someone with enough training, experience and knowledge to be able to implement these measures properly.
Most small business owners do not have the expertise personally, or in-house, to do this to the level required by the local Fire & Rescue Authority who, if dissatisfied with what you have reviewed and put in place, can issue an enforcement notice that requires you to make certain improvements. In extreme cases, a prohibition notice may be issued, restricting the use of all or part of your premises until the improvements are made.
If you feel you need support in undertaking your Fire Safety Assessment or implementing any preventive or protective measures speak with GEM Security.
GEM Security Solutions are accredited with the BAFE. SP203-1 and NSI (Gold) & are also member of the FIA. Our System Engineers have a wealth of experience in helping you keep your business compliant, your staff safe and your eye still firmly on the ball.
Contact us today on 01443 490 569