Risk assessments: don’t play with fire

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Fire safety in the workplace is vitally important if your business is going to avoid potentially significant fines and even criminal prosecution for the person carrying out the risk assessment. Cutting corners could cause huge problems for your organisation. Not to mention, endangering your employees, customers and members of the public.

Fire risk assessments done right

If your business consists of more than five people, you need to keep a written record of each fire risk assessment done. That means having a Responsible Person (RP) who is in charge of fire safety. Exactly what this means is in the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005[1]. So if you’re unsure who is responsible for your building, make sure you refer to this documentation.

Doing your research and even calling in professional advice is key to avoiding any future penalties. Moreover, it can be a costly business. Recently, failure to even carry out a fire risk assessment meant the landlord of a former London pub was forced to pay fines and costs of £16,015[2].

There are slightly different requirements across different areas of the UK when it comes to conducting a Fire Risk Assessment, however, as a rule of thumb, here are the things you need to do:

  • Identify hazards. Basically this means identifying ways a fire could start throughout the building. You can do this by considering the ‘fire triangle’ of ignition, fuel and oxygen.
  • Consider people at risk. As part of your risk assessment, you need to decide if certain people are more at risk than others based on their location, working hours, experience and physical condition.
  • Evaluate, reduce, remove. Once you have a clear picture of what the risks are, it’s your responsibility to mitigate, and where possible, eliminate them.
  • Keep records. Make sure you always document your findings and use them to develop a comprehensive emergency plan.
  • Regularly review. Keeping up-to-date with legislation changes, any alteration to the building, and new equipment will help ensure your assessment is current.

Pitfalls and penalties

Many smaller businesses fall foul of not knowing what their responsibilities are. The managing agent of a block of flats in London was fined £100,000 for just that. The agent and also had to pay £13,000 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching fire safety law[3].

There are also pitfalls to be careful of, even if you are actively trying to carry out your responsibilities. Here are some extra tips[4]:

  • Look beyond the ‘fire triangle’. It’s a good starting point, but a robust assessment relies on a more in depth knowledge of the building’s structures.
  • Consider building materials. There may be retrofit opportunities to include less flammable products.
  • Learn from near misses. Make a record of every incident to understand how you can tighten your fire safety procedures.

Contact a professional

Conducting a fire risk assessment shouldn’t be taken lightly. It’s a huge responsibility, that carries potentially devastating consequences. If you are at all unsure about your building, contact us, or visit jelfgroup.com.

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[1] http://www.firesafe.org.uk/regulatory-reform-fire-safety-order-2005/

[2] http://www.aviva.co.uk/risksolutions/news/2010/03/01/pub-landlord-fined-after-failure-to-carry-out-fire/

[3] http://www.firesafetyservices.co.uk/building-managers-fined-100000-failing-act-fire-risk-assessment/

[4] http://www.firesafe.org.uk/fire-risk-assessment/

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Passionate about all things marketing. Louise is a chartered marketer who believes in a customer-focused approach to business.