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The Fire Risk Assessment

The fire risk assessment is a careful examination of the premises to determine whether any hazards are present and if so the risk they present.

• A hazard is something that has the potential to cause harm.
• A risk is the chance, high or low of that harm occurring.

You also need to consider whether you have taken sufficient precautions or should do more to avoid harm. Every premises that the fire safety order applies to will need to carry out a fire risk assessment, but, if you employ 5 or more people, you are a licensed premises or the fire officer requires it you will need to formally record the information gathered during the fire risk assessment, in particular;

• The significant findings
• The measures taken or to be taken to ensure general fire safety
• Any persons identified as being particularly at risk

If you are a small business and you are confident you understand what's involved you can do the risk assessment yourself. If you are not confident you understand what’s involved you can ask a competent person to help. It is worth remembering you will always remain responsible should you enlist the help of a competent person. There are 5 steps to be taken to complete a risk assessment, in this guidance we will look at each step in detail.

Step 1: Identify Fire Hazards

Fire is a chemical reaction which needs three things to be present so it can happen: oxygen, heat and fuel. If one of these is not present, the fire cannot start. If one of these is taken from a fire it will go out. Therefore when we carry out step 1 of the fire risk assessment we are looking for sources of these components in the workplace.
The main source of oxygen for a fire is in the air around us.
Anything that burns is fuel for a fire. So sources of fuel may be papers, wood, plastics, rubbers or flammable liquid products such as paint or thinners.
Sources of ignition come from: smoking, naked flames, electrical, gas or oil-fired heaters and cooking etc. One of the simplest ways of identifying and recording the hazards found is by a simple

Step 2: Decide Who May Be Harmed

When we carry out step 2 of the fire risk assessment we are trying to identify who may be at risk if a fire broke out. Attention needs to be paid to where people work in the building as well as people who may not find it easy to evacuate, these could include contractors, visitors, disabled, elderly, pregnant women or members of the public.

Step 3: Evaluate The Risks And Decide Whether Existing Precautions Are Adequate Or More Needs To Be Done.

This is by far the most involved step of the fire risk assessment, we have identified the hazards and who may be harmed by them. In step 3 several needs to be considered. First we need to decide the level of risk for each hazard and what needs to be done to reduce the chance of fire occurring and spreading. There are 3 levels of risk …

Low risk - Where there is little chance of fire occurring
Normal risk - This applies to nearly all parts of most workplaces
High risk - areas where the spread of fire may be increased giving less evacuation time such as paint factories, or where evacuation time is slower due to the type of people or activity present in the building e.g. elderly people or people sleeping in the premises.

When the level of risk has been decided consideration should be given to ways of reducing the risks either by reducing sources of ignition, fuel or oxygen.

After reducing the risks we need to look at ways of detecting and warning of fire. Effective and early means of detecting and warning of fire are essential so people have as much chance as possible to escape to a safe place. Things we need to consider may be:

  • Can fire be discovered quickly?
  • Can the warning be clearly heard throughout the whole premises?
  • Do employees know how to operate the warning system and how to respond to it?
    • Remember we will need to give extra consideration to people who may find it difficult to evacuate. Next we need to look at how people will escape from fire so we need to consider:

      • How long will it take to evacuate all occupants
      • Is that a reasonable length of time?
      • Are there enough exits and will they be sufficient for the numbers of people within the building
      • Are all escape routes clear from obstructions and sufficiently illuminated?
      • Have the staff been trained in using the escape routes?
        • Now we need to look at means of fighting fire, there needs to be fire fighting equipment in place so people have the ability to tackle fire (without putting themselves in danger) if it is in it’s early stages. This is something a specialist company can help you with,

          NEFCO are always willing to offer free help and advice at any time. We need to decide:

          • Are there sufficient numbers of fire extinguisher in the building
          • Are the correct types and numbers of extinguisher used for the risks identified?
          • Does all fire fighting equipment have correct identification?
          • Have staff received training in the use of fire fighting equipment?
            • Having installed all the equipment needed to protect us from fire it would be a waste of time and money not to mention dangerous ( this equipment may save lives) if we did not have this equipment properly maintained.
              Therefore the next item we need to look at is the maintenance and inspection of all the fire fighting equipment including:

              • Fire doors
              • Fire alarms
              • Fire detection
              • Fire fighting equipment
              • Signs and notices
              • Emergency lighting
              • Corridors and staircases
                • These items should be inspected regularly by the building user (NEFCO can provide you with checklists to assist in this task) and where appropriate regular maintenance by a competent person, any defects should be corrected as soon as possible. It is good practice to keep a record of all inspections and any work carried out.

                  Next we need to look at the level of training staff have received. All staff need to be trained in the use of fire fighting equipment and what to do in the event of fire therefore our checklist will include such things as:

                  • Do employees know what action to take on discovering a fire?
                  • Do staff know how to raise the alarm?
                  • Do staff know the procedures for alerting visitors ?
                  • Do staff know the evacuation procedures?
                  • Are staff aware of all escape routes?
                  • Do all staff know how to open escape doors and fittings?
                  • Have staff received training in using fire fighting equipment?
                  • Have staff received training on the importance of good housekeeping?
                  • Have all staff been made aware of their responsibilities under the Regulatory Reform (fire safety) Order?
                    • Now we need to look at the provisions made for disabled people, we need to consider any staff on the premises as well as visitors, this may include people who have poor sight or hearing or mental disability as well as physical impairment. We need to decide:

                      • How these people will be alerted to fire
                      • How they will be evacuated,
                      • Whether they need to use a specific escape route,
                      • Whether they need assistance to evacuate the building
                      • Who will provide this assistance?

                        • ______________________________________________________________________________

                          Step 4: Record Your Findings And Actions

                          If there are 5 or more people employed in the workplace the a record of the findings and actions needs to be retained. There is no set rule as to the format to be used but it should include:

                          • The date of the assessment
                          • The hazards found
                          • People who are at risk form the hazards
                          • Existing controls
                          • Risks which require further action to control
                          • The further action required and by when
                            • After we have completed the fire risk assessment and have recorded our findings we need to create an emergency plan, this is the set of instructions all people in the workplace will use in the event of fire, A written plan should be available for inspection by the fire brigade. The plan needs to detail:

                              • Actions to take on discovering a fire
                              • How people will be warned if there is a fire
                              • How the evacuation will be carried out
                              • Identification of escape routes
                              • Fire fighting equipment provided
                              • The duties of specific employees who have dedicated tasks to
                              • perform in the event of fire
                              • Arrangements for safe evacuation of people identified as being at risk
                              • How the fire brigade will be called
                              • What training employees need and how this will be given

                                • ______________________________________________________________________________

                                  Step 5: Review And Revise

                                  The fire risk assessment has been completed our findings have been recorded and we have created an emergency plan, we are putting into place all procedures identified in the risk assessment but this is in no way the end of requirements. The fire risk assessment should be reviewed on a regular basis, if there have been no changes to the workplace the probability is that there will be nothing that needs changing. You will probably need to look at your assessment again if any of the following have occurred:

                                  • A change in legislation
                                  • Significant changes in working practices
                                  • Installation of new machinery
                                  • If a fire or ‘near miss’ occurs
                                  • Employment of a category of personnel (disabled etc.) not previously taken into account.
                                    • This list is not exhaustive but regular review of the fire risk assessment will highlight ay areas where change is needed.

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