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Fire Risk Assessment The 29 Minute Expert Guide.

The 29 Minute Expert Guide to Fire Risk Assessment

Why do I need a Fire Risk Assessment?

Fire Risk Assessment Overview

What you need to know

If you’re in control of non-domestic premises or some types of domestic properties you are known as a ‘responsible person’ or ‘Duty Holder’. You are legally required to have a ‘suitable and sufficient’ fire risk assessment.

If you don’t meet your obligations

Your local Fire Brigade can visit your premises at any time to make sure you are following the rules to keep your employees and members of the public safe. Although they will normally make appointments, they can make an unannounced visit at any time.

If the inspection shows that you haven’t met your obligations, actions can include anything from information and advice all the way through to prosecution. If there are serious breaches or there is a fire and you haven't met your duty to keep people safe, you could be fined and spend time in prison.

Penalties can range from £5,000 to unlimited fines and up to two years in prison.

What you must do

If your business has five or more employees you must record any significant findings of your fire risk assessment.

Once you have completed your fire risk assessment, you will need a fire strategy. This explains how you will reduce risk while protecting people and business assets by:

  • developing
  • implementing
  • maintaining

risk-appropriate policies and procedures.

See fire risk assessment government guidance here.

What you will learn from this guide

Here we explain fire theory and give you a step-by-step explanation of how to complete your fire risk assessment, along with useful templates, illustrations and examples.

You will find out more about the key issues you should include in your assessment and the key components of a fire risk strategy. We will also explain some of the things you need to be aware of in different types of premises. We have included answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about fire risk assessments.

When you have completed this guide, you will have a clearer understanding how to complete a fire risk assessment and the things you will need to do to meet your obligation to keep your premises and people safe from fire.

As the responsible person in charge of premises, you must carry out a fire risk assessment and review it regularly. This will highlight what you need to do to prevent fire, to keep people safe and to minimise damage.

The British Standards Institute has produced a Publicly Available Specification, PAS 79, to help enhance fire safety, to protect people and promises, and to minimise risks.

You can use this fire risk evaluation guide to rank the likelihood of a fire, the risk to people and property, and what you need to do.

Fire Risk Evaluation Guide

Likelihood
High Medium Low
Severity High 3 3 2
Medium 3 2 1
Low 2 1 1
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Fire safety risk assessment - a five step guide

1. Identifying fire hazards

Fire starts when heat (a source of ignition) comes into contact with fuel (anything that burns), and oxygen (air). To reduce fire risks you need to keep sources of ignition and fuel apart.

The fire tetrahedron

Fire research has established that, in addition to fuel, heat and oxygen there is a fourth important element in combustion. A chemical chain reaction is also a necessary component of fire. The four faces of the fire tetrahedron represent the four elements needed for fire to occur. If you can remove any one of these essential elements the fire will be extinguished.

Consider how a fire could start - 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. Water can be used to reduce the temperature should a fire start, but should not be used if electrical equipment is present.

2. Identifying people at risk

Of course, everyone is at risk if there is a fire. You must consider whether the risk is greater for some people because of when or where they work, such as night staff or visitors and customers who are unfamiliar with the premises. The needs of children, the elderly or disabled people should be carefully considered.

3. Evaluating, removing or reducing fire risks

Once you have assessed the risks of a fire starting and the risks to people in the building and nearby, the next step is to remove and reduce those risks wherever possible.

Measures to reduce fire risks could include:

  • removing the hazard altogether
  • reducing the hazard to the point where there is little or no risk
  • replacing the existing hazard with a safer alternative
  • separating the hazard from the workplace.

The best approach is to make sure that your health and safety policy and your business culture are focussed on minimising hazards in the workplace and making sure everyone is ‘fire risk aware’.

4. Recording your findings, preparing an emergency plan and providing training

Record – it’s advisable to keep a record of any fire hazards and the steps you have taken to reduce or remove them, even if your premises are small.

If you have five or more staff or have a license, registration or an ‘Alterations Notice’, then you must keep a record of what you have found and what you have done.

Your records should include:

  • the date the assessment was made
  • the hazards identified
  • anyone especially at risk
  • actions to be taken and by when
  • conclusions arising from the assessment.

Plan - you must have a clear plan of how to prevent fire and how you will keep people safe in the event of a fire. If you share a building with others, you will need to coordinate your plan with theirs.

Train - you must make sure your staff know what to do if a fire is discovered and, if necessary, train them for their roles.

You can use our simple fire risk assessment template to help you complete this process.

Download the template

5. Reviewing and updating the fire risk assessment regularly

It’s important to review your fire risk assessment regularly. If the possible risks change or you make any significant changes to your plan, you must tell others who share the premises and where appropriate re-train your staff.

Examples of situations that might mean you need to review your plan include:

  • changes in the number of people at the premises or their characteristics, such as a new employee or visitor with a disability
  • changes to work practices, involving new equipment or alterations to the building, including the internal layout or even significant changes to furniture and fixings
  • significant changes to your product displays or quantities of stock
  • introducing or increasing storage of hazardous substances
  • becoming aware of improvements that can be made to your fire safety measures.

You can use our fire safety risk assessment chart to complete these five steps.

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General considerations for your fire risk assessment

Fire risk assessment training

Consider completing a short fire risk assessment course before undertaking an assessment yourself.

Passive fire protection

Passive fire protection (PFP) should be integrated in to a building’s structure to restrict the intensity and spread of fire. It should control the flammability of wall and ceiling linings by dividing a building into fire-resisting compartments and by protecting the structure of the building to prevent collapse.

PFP includes fire doors, fire resisting walls, floors and ceilings, fire resisting ducts, dampers and stops, and fire protection for steelwork. In the United Kingdom and Ireland the required PFP measures are covered by statutory guidance documents:

As part of your fire risk assessment you should evaluate the PFP of your building. However, a more detailed survey might be needed to locate fire dampers or to establish whether existing measures meet current guidance.

You can see a short video on how to evaluate PFP here.

Construction materials

You should be aware of the materials used to line walls and ceilings including polystyrene or carpet tiles that could be flammable, as well as fixtures and fittings that could contribute to the spread of fire. You should check if the internal construction includes large areas of:

  • hardboard, chipboard, block-board walls or ceilings
  • synthetic ceiling or wall coverings, such as polystyrene wall or ceiling tiles
  • flooring or polypropylene carpet or carpet tiles, fixtures and fittings.

Compartmentation

Fire compartmentation prevents the rapid spread of smoke and fire by sub-dividing a building to protect escape routes, high risk or high-value areas. Your fire risk assessment should include a review of existing fire compartmentation measures.

Repairs and renovations

Fires are more frequent when buildings are undergoing refurbishment or alteration. Before any building work starts, your fire risk assessment should be reviewed and steps taken to address any additional dangers during the project. You will need to evaluate the additional risks to people if the building will continue to be occupied.

The needs of individuals

Your fire risk assessment should specifically address the needs of:

  • employees who work alone or in isolated areas such as cleaners or security staff
  • people who are unfamiliar with the premises including seasonal or temporary workers, contractors, visitors and customers
  • people with limitations or disabilities who might not be able to leave the premises quickly, including elderly customers or parents with children
  • people with language difficulties who might not understand instructions.

Consequential risks

You should also consider developing situations such as:

  • a fire starting on a lower floor affecting the only escape route for people on upper floors or the only escape route for people with disabilities
  • fire developing in an unoccupied space that people have to pass to escape from the building
  • other people affected by fire or smoke spreading through a building via vertical shafts, service ducts, ventilation systems, poorly installed, poorly maintained or damaged walls, partitions and ceilings
  • a fire in a service room that affects hazardous materials
  • fire spreading rapidly through the building because of combustible structural elements or large stores of combustible goods
  • fire and smoke spreading through a building due to poor installation of fire precautions, such as incorrectly installed fire doors or incorrectly installed services that penetrate fire walls
  • fire and smoke spreading through the building due to poorly maintained and damaged fire doors or fire doors being wedged open
  • risks to nearby properties.

Fuel sources

Some of the most common fuels are:

Flammable liquid-based products

Flammable liquid-based products

Such as paints, varnishes, thinners and adhesives.

Flammable liquids and solvents

Flammable liquids and solvents

Such as alcohol (spirits), white spirit, methylated spirit, cooking oils and disposable cigarette lighters.

Flammable chemicals

Flammable chemicals

Such as cleaning products and photocopier chemicals.

Flammable gases

Flammable gases

Such as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and acetylene.

Packaging materials

Packaging materials

Stationery, advertising material and decorations.

Plastics and rubber

Plastics and rubber

Polyurethane foam-filled furniture and polystyrene-based display materials and rubber or foam exercise mats.

Upholstery

Upholstery

Upholstered seating and cushions, textiles, soft furnishings and clothing displays.

Litter and waste products

Litter and waste products

Particularly finely divided items such as shredded paper and wood shavings, offcuts, and dust accumulation.

Kitchens and catering

Wherever possible, kitchens and catering facilities, particularly those with deep fat fryers, should be in a separate building. If they are within your building, there should be fire-resistant separation and adequate ventilation. Where flues pass through any part of your premises, fire resistant protection should be installed, and emissions should be dispersed in open air.

Fire shutters

Where fire shutters are used, they should be capable of operating both manually and by a fusible link. Where a fire detection and warning system is installed, the fire shutter should also be designed to close on activation of the system via a controlled geared mechanism.

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Key considerations in your fire risk strategy

Fire alarms

Arrangements for warning everyone on the premises in the event of a fire must be adequate and fail-safe. They must be appropriate to the size and complexity of the environment and can include fire alarm systems, smoke detectors, hand bells, or a recognised verbal warning.

Fire warning and detection systems should be installed to British Standard 5839 meeting the requirements of five grading levels:

L1 L2 L3 L4 L5
Detection provided in all areas, including voids and unused spaces. The same as L3 but with additional detection provided in areas where there are higher levels of fire hazard or risk of ignition (such as kitchens, sleeping areas and other specified areas). The same as a life safety system plus smoke detection on escape routes and heat or smoke detection in adjacent rooms. The same as a life safety system plus smoke detection on escape routes. A system to protect life.

Emergency routes and exits

The risk of people becoming trapped is greater if there is only one way out. Multiple exits should be available wherever possible, allowing escape without the use of key from all parts of your premises to a place of safety or fresh air.

Ideally, everyone in the premises should be able to walk away from a fire to an accessible exit. If your premises are small and the fire risk has been assessed as normal or low, then escape in one direction might be unavoidable. However, dead-ends should be minimised and alternatives should be carefully considered.

Recommended travelling distances

This is the maximum distance someone must travel to reach a place of safety, included in guidance for the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order (RR(FS)O).

Emergency firefighting equipment

Appropriate equipment can be used by a nominated fire team or any trained and competent person, where possible without risk to life.

Dangerous substances

Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations (DSEAR) are about protection from the risks of fire, explosion and damage arising from dangerous substances that are used or present in the workplace.

Areas in and around storage facilities where potentially explosive atmospheres could be formed should be designated as hazardous zones with appropriate signage. As an employer, you should have measures in place to prevent dangerous substances or flammable atmospheres from igniting.

Emergency fire evacuation plan

Your evacuation plan should make sure that everyone, including contractors and casual employees, understands what they should do in the event of a fire. Your plan should include all necessary measures to ensure your premises can be safely evacuated, and that people can move to a place where they will not be in danger from fire, falling debris, explosion or fumes. Nearby open spaces such as pedestrian areas or car parks could be ideal.

Appropriate signs should be used where possible, to make sure there are no misunderstandings.

As the responsible person you must prepare the plan, which might be as simple as a fire action notice that everyone is aware of, or a comprehensive written Fire Emergency Evacuation Plan (FEEP).

The needs of vulnerable people

To accommodate the needs of disabled employees or visitors a Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan (PEEP) might be needed.

Assembly points and roll call

Everyone leaving the premises should make their way to a safe location where it can be confirmed that everyone is accounted for.

The assembly point should be pre-determined so that a roll-call can be completed quickly. The person in charge of each assembly point should report as soon as possible to the fire service liaison contact, who will then be able to confirm to the emergency services that everyone is accounted for or, if anyone is missing, where they were last seen.

Employee information

Employees are entitled to adequate fire safety measures for the premises to ensure, so far as is reasonably possible, they are safe from harm by fire. Employers should ensure they are safe from harm caused by fire in the workplace and that they don’t place employees at risk. This responsibility includes:

  • Providing appropriate instruction and training, where necessary, about any risks identified on the premises, fire safety measures provided and what to do in the event of a fire
  • Information about anything concerning the premises which could represent a serious and immediate fire safety risk.

Equally, employees are responsible for:

  • informing employers about anything that could be reasonably considered as a shortcoming in fire safety protection arrangements or in the event of fire
  • cooperating with employers to allow them to comply with their fire safety responsibilities.

Staff fire safety training

Managers in most small businesses should be able to provide fire safety training. It can be carried out in-house or by a reputable company. Alternatively, a small number of employees could be trained by an external organisation and could in turn train the rest of the workforce.

Employers should make sure that members of staff are adequately trained on how to respond in the event of fire.

Training should be given when new employees join the business and refresher training should be given at least once a year. Training should be undertaken by a competent person and a record kept.

There are three important areas of fire safety training:

  1. a basic understanding of the theory of fire
  2. a full understanding of the Fire Action Plan created as part of your fire risk assessment
  3. types of fires and the appropriate extinguishers and hose reels and how to use them.

Fire classifications

There are six classifications of fire:

  • Class A - organic solids like paper and wood
  • Class B - flammable liquids
  • Class C - flammable gasses
  • Class D - burning metals (such as aluminium swarf)
  • Class F - fats such as those used in deep fat fryers
  • Electrical fires - caused by electrical equipment (the letter E is not used).

Extinguishers

British Standard extinguishers follow this colour code:

Type Old Code BS EN 3 Colour Code Fire Class
Water Signal Red Signal Red A
Water Mist White and Red White and Red A, F, (suitable for B and C, although without formal marking), electrical if dielectrically tested)
Foam Cream Red with a cream panel above the operating instructions A, B, electrical if dielectrically tested
Dry Powder French Blue Red with a blue panel above the operating instructions A, B, C, electrical
Carbon Dioxide Black Red with a black panel above the operating instructions B, electrical
Halon Emerald Green No longer produced – illegal in the UK A
Wet Chemical Not in use Red with a yellow panel above the operating instructions A, F, some are also suitable for B class fires
Specialist Powder French Blue Red with a blue panel above the operating instructions D
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Specific considerations for fire risk assessments in different types of premises

Offices and shops

Where a lot of people work in or visit offices and shops, assessing fire risks can be difficult. Although many of the activities are low risk in themselves, the number of variables can make a fire risk assessment challenging.

The main risks in offices and shops include:

  • evaluating storage of flammable materials such as paper
  • reviewing access and exits for all areas to ensure they aren’t blocked or locked
  • confirming that the width of corridors and doorways leading to exits is suitable for wheelchair users
  • assessing use and storage of cleaning materials
  • reviewing the safety of electrical equipment.

You will need to identify where people work, either at permanent workstations or at occasional locations around the premises. You must also consider who else might be at risk, such as customers or visiting contractors, and where these people are likely to be.

Factories and warehouses

There are special considerations for factories, manufacturing facilities, storage warehouses, and factories combined with warehouses.

Factories and warehouses are usually considered to be a high fire risk, although fires are usually the result of an unforeseen problem with a process or improper use of materials or machinery. Risk levels will depend on the processes involved and the number of people present.

The main risks in factories and warehouses include:

  • processes using flammable substances or machinery developing faults
  • a flame that might not be immediately detected, such as a smouldering cigarette
  • electrical faults and misuse of electrical equipment
  • large amounts of flammable materials in warehouse store rooms with limited supervision
  • work on the premises involving gas torches or angle grinders, for example.

Transport premises and facilities

Train, bus, coach and airport terminals and exchanges, rail and road tunnels, passenger ferry ports and facilities, shipping ports and terminals can all be included in this category.

Potential risks include:

  • open-flame equipment and blowtorches
  • heat or power generators, electro-magnetic equipment, transformers and overhead power lines
  • surfaces with raised temperatures, including vehicle exhausts and lighting equipment
  • static discharge during refuelling
  • mechanical friction including vehicle brakes, cutting and grinding equipment, and baggage conveyors.

You should also consider potential risks of a bus, train or plane arriving on fire.

Common causes of fire in equipment and machinery are:

  • clogged or blocked ventilation points causing overheating
  • excessive grease deposits in extraction equipment
  • loose drive belts or lack of lubrication leading to increased friction
  • disabling or interfering with automatic or manual safety features and cut-outs
  • leaking valves, glands or joints allowing oils and other flammable liquids to contaminate adjacent floors or goods
  • misuse or lack of maintenance of equipment and appliances.

Sleeping accommodation

Special consideration to fire risk is needed for sleeping accommodation for staff, common areas for residents, and sleeping, dining or other accommodation for guests or residents including:

  • the common areas of houses in multiple occupation (HMOs)
  • the common areas of flats and maisonettes
  • the common areas of sheltered accommodation where care is not provided
  • bed and breakfast businesses, guest houses, holiday chalets, holiday flat complexes, camping, caravan and holiday parks (other than privately-owned individual units)
  • areas in work places where ‘sleeping in’ is a condition of employment or a business requirement, as in licensed premises or hotels for example.

You will also need to consider who else might be at risk, such as visitors or contractors and where these people will be found.

You must consider all the people who use the premises and you should pay particular attention to people who have recently been asleep, who might be slow to respond and disorientated.

Residential care premises

Where the main use of the building is to provide residential care with staff in attendance, most or all of the residents could require carer assistance to be safe in the event of a fire. These types of premises could include:

  • residential and nursing homes
  • rehabilitation facilities providing residential treatment and care for addiction
  • care homes and care homes with nursing.

Common risks in residential care premises include laundry supplies, bedding and towels, medical supplies, toiletries, aerosols, plastics and rubber, foam-filled furniture and mats.

You need to consider how residents, especially those with limited mobility, would respond to a fire alarm. Communication plans should be in place so that residents, who can hear the alarm but might not be able to respond, are notified as quickly as possible about what is happening.

In many residential care premises the design includes open-plan areas where fire, and especially smoke, can spread quickly. It’s important to evaluate the construction and layout of your premises carefully.

Healthcare premises

Premises where the main use of the building is to provide healthcare include hospitals, medical centres and other healthcare-related premises.

Fires might be started by patients, either accidentally or deliberately, particularly by those who are elderly, have learning difficulties or young people with disabilities.

Some hospitals are designed to conform to the principles of Nucleus fire precautions. The main areas where Nucleus hospitals differ from other hospitals include:

  • management
  • fire and smoke containment
  • smoke dispersal
  • separation of fire hazards.

Specific concerns for fire risk assessments in hospitals include:

  • Medical gasess should be stored outside whenever possible, in a safe and secure location. Where cylinders need to be stored indoors, they should be kept to a minimum in well-ventilated designated marked cupboards or rooms away from extremes of heat.
  • Bedding and sleepwear - bedding and sleepwear supplied to patients should be resistant to ignition.
  • Pressure relief products - products such as mattress overlays, fleeces and under-pads should be resistant to ignition.
  • Toyscare and cleaning for soft toys should follow the manufacturer’s instructions so that they remain flame retardant.

Educational premises

Fire risk assessments are especially important for employers, head teachers, governors, vice-chancellors, occupiers and owners of premises used for educational purposes including:

  • schools, Sunday schools and after-school clubs
  • universities
  • academies
  • nurseries or crèches
  • adult education centres
  • outdoor education centres
  • music schools.

Everyone using the premises should be included in the assessment and you should pay particular attention to people who may be especially at risk such as:

  • students in unsupervised areas
  • pupils or students with language difficulties, including overseas students from non-English speaking countries.

Small and medium places of assembly (holding 300 people or less)

Small places of assembly could include:

  • public houses
  • clubs
  • dance halls/schools
  • village halls
  • community centres
  • churches
  • other places of religious worship or study and associated premises
  • temporary structures, marquees and tents.

You must consider all the people who use your premises. For example, if you’re an event organiser hiring a venue and are unfamiliar with the location, you must consider the risks for yourself and your helpers.

Certain types of events such as discos can present additional risks. The impact of excitement, alcohol, higher noise levels and flashing lights should all be considered.

If the audience is primarily younger people, competent and adequately trained attendants will be needed.

When stored in bulk, certain types of cushioning, seating, mats and ball pit play areas can add to the risk of fire spreading rapidly. These should be stored in a fire-resisting container or room.

Care might be needed if a cellar used for storage connects directly to the rest of the building, especially if it is accessible to the public.

If used as a performance space, scenery should not be stored on an open stage as it is often combustible. These materials should be stored in 30-minute fire-resisting storage enclosures when not in use.

Large places of assembly (holding more than 300 people)

While many of the same considerations apply, large gatherings that represent heightened risks in the event of fire, include:

  • sports stadia
  • exhibition and conference centres
  • large nightclubs
  • churches, cathedrals, other places of worship
  • community centres and village halls
  • common areas of shopping centres
  • premises that adjoin areas such as shopping centres.

You will need to know who may be at risk, including spectators, shoppers, worshippers, customers, and other users including visiting performance companies or visiting contractors.

Explosive or highly flammable substances should only be brought onto the premises under specified and monitored conditions. Fireworks must be operated safely and in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions. They should only be used by people trained and competent to handle pyrotechnics.

Theatres, cinemas and similar premises

Purpose-built premises and those converted for use as cinemas, theatres, concert halls, or a combination of these, raise some specific issues for fire risk assessments. These include a wide range of potential ignition sources, such as:

  • faulty or misused electrical equipment (projectors, lasers, rewinding machines), including equipment brought in by visiting companies
  • luminaires and lighting equipment, such as halogen lamps, display lighting or projectors
  • hot surfaces and blocked ventilation
  • naked flames such as candles, gas or liquid-fuelled open-flame equipment
  • special effects, such as fireworks and pyrotechnics.

Explosive or highly flammable substances, pyrotechnics, special effects and firearms should only be brought onto the premises under specified and monitored conditions. Pyrotechnics should only be used by someone who is trained and competent to handle them.

As far possible, furnishing, staging materials and costumes should be difficult to ignite and provide a low surface spread of flame and low rates of heat release and smoke. Combustible contents are likely to include:

  • costumes, scenery and props used for stage performances
  • furnishings, upholstered seating, furniture and cushions
  • curtains, drapes and other textile hangings
  • artificial and dried foliage
  • decorative textiles
  • items containing cellular foam, such as props.

Open air events and venues

Outdoor events and venues including zoos, music concerts, sporting events, firework displays and markets have a number of added risks, such as:

  • light fittings and lighting equipment, including lamps or display lighting
  • hot surfaces and generators
  • refuelling of vehicles and equipment
  • natural incidents such as lightning
  • mechanical friction, such as fairground rides
  • vehicle catalytic converters.

Animal premises and stables

Fire risks in stables and livery yards include sources of heat that could become hot enough to ignite such as:

  • cigarettes, matches and lighters
  • naked flames such as equipment used by a farrier for hot shoeing
  • fixed or portable electrical, gas or oil-fired heaters.

Fuels in these environments that require particular attention include fodder and bedding, such as hay, straw, wood shavings. Other flammable materials could include chopped paper and cardboard, property maintenance and equine presentation products, such as spirits, paints, varnishes, thinners, adhesives, and vegetable-based oils.

Risks also arise from large amounts of waste material, which should be kept in suitable containers prior to removal. If your establishment generates large amounts of combustible waste material, a formal plan to manage this effectively is desirable. Large amounts of manure should be monitored and manure compounds should not be placed against buildings.

Overstocked bulk storage areas can lead to an increased risk of fire and only daily quantities of fodder and bedding materials should be kept inside.

Storage barns, buildings and garages for vehicles should be structurally separate from accommodation for people and animals.

Farriers should work in a designated location, ideally in the open air. If working indoors the floor should be non-combustible and clear of all combustible waste materials.

Construction sites

Construction activities must be controlled to protect everyone on site as well as children and other members of the public who could be at risk, and those using adjacent properties.

Clients, designers, contractors and Construction (Design and Management) Regulations (CDM)*, co-ordinators all have a role to play in developing, managing and applying fire safety standards on construction sites.

Risks include:

  • smokers’ materials, such as cigarettes, matches and lighters
  • naked flames, such as gas- or liquid-fuelled open-flame equipment
  • bonfires
  • plant and equipment
  • faulty or misused electrical equipment or poor electrical installations
  • hot processes and hot work, such as welding
  • light fittings and lighting equipment including temporary lighting
  • stored flammable materials including paints, varnishes and fuels
  • combustible parts of the building’s structure
  • friction-generated heat from mechanical equipment like disc cutters
  • static charges from mechanical equipment
  • waste materials and rubbish
  • lightning and refracted sunlight.

Also consider the natural airflow through open or unfinished doors, windows and other openings that can provide a draft or ‘chimney effect’. This will increase oxygen to a fire.

*or the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005

Key points

  • You have a legal responsibility to complete a fire risk assessment if you are in control of non-domestic premises or some types of domestic properties.
  • Failure to meet your obligations can lead to unlimited fines and a prison sentence.
  • Your first risk assessment must look at sources of heat, fuel and oxygen.
  • You can reduce the risks of fire by removing, reducing or separating these three key components of fire.
  • You should prepare a fire risk strategy which explains how you will reduce the risk of fire.
  • You should have a Fire Evacuation plan so that everyone knows what to do in the event of a fire.
  • You must give special consideration to the needs of vulnerable people.
  • You should regularly review your fire risk assessment and ideally include a date for the next assessment in your strategy.
  • If circumstances change you should also review your fire risk assessment.
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Fire risk assessment - frequently asked questions

What is a fire risk assessment?

To protect against harm due to fire the risks must be identified. This process is known as a fire risk assessment (FRA). It is a snapshot of how occupants and property can be protected in the event of a fire. The FRA should highlight actions and further steps that can and will be taken to provide an appropriate level of fire safety.

What types of premises need a fire risk assessment?

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order is the relevant fire risk assessment legislation domestic premises and nearly every type of building, structure, and open space, including:

  • offices and shops
  • premises that provide care
  • community halls
  • common areas of houses in multiple occupation
  • pubs, clubs and restaurants
  • schools
  • tents and marquees
  • hotels and hostels
  • factories and warehouses.

It excludes domestic premises occupied by a single, family group.

Do fire risk assessments only apply to employees?

Your assessment must take into account anyone using your premises, such as:

  • contractors
  • professional visitors
  • members of the public
  • anyone else who might be affected by your activities.

Who is responsible for a fire risk assessment?

You are responsible for completing and maintaining a ‘suitable and sufficient’ fire risk assessment under fire safety law if you are:

  • responsible for business premises
  • an employer
  • self-employed with business premises
  • a charity or voluntary organisation
  • a contractor with a degree of control over any premises.

In a workplace, the responsible person or Duty Holder is the employer and anyone else who might have control of any part of the premises, for example, the occupier or owner.

If there is more than one responsible person in any type of premises, you must all take reasonable steps to work with each other.

Do I need a fire risk assessment for HMO?

A fire risk assessment is needed for Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs), which are defined as properties shared by three or more tenants who are not members of the same family. The most appropriate guide for the common areas of HMOs and blocks of flats or maisonettes is for sleeping accommodation.

How often do I need to carry out a fire risk assessment?

The law doesn’t specify how often a fire risk assessment should be completed or reviewed. The person responsible for the assessment in your building must review it ‘regularly’ to make sure it’s up to date.

It must be reviewed if:

  • it’s no longer valid (for example, if there has been a fire in the shared parts of the building)
  • there have been significant changes since the last assessment was completed (for example, major building works)

The assessment itself should ideally include a recommendation on how often it should be reviewed.

What fire safety training should I give to my staff?

Employers should make sure that their staff are adequately trained on what to do in the event of fire.

Training should be given when an employee first starts, ideally with refresher training after the first month, and further training at least once a year. Training should be delivered by a competent person and recorded.

Following the training your employees know what to do when:

  • discovering a fire
  • hearing the fire alarm
  • making their way to assembly points
  • calling the Fire and Rescue Service
  • using fire extinguishers.

Will Brexit affect fire risks assessments in the UK?

Your duties to protect people’s the health and safety of won’t change. Some amendments have been made to health and safety regulations EU.

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