It’s never worth overlooking your fire risk assessment. This negligence can lead to significant damage - both financial and physical - to your business, which is often impossible to restore.
- What is the Purpose of a Fire Risk Assessment?
- Conducting a Fire Risk Assessment
- What Comes After the Assessment?
- Final Thoughts
What is the Purpose of a Fire Risk Assessment?
Fire risk assessments are essential in helping every business identify and understand the risk of fire to their customers, staff and assets. A confident risk assessment should highlight what makes your property vulnerable to fire, with a view to removing or reducing these hazards in order to ensure the safety of your occupants. It's impossible to effectively safeguard against fire in the workplace if you are unaware of the hazards specific to your building.
In the UK, businesses of more than 5 employees are required by law to conduct an annual fire risk assessment, under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. These regulations are in place for a reason. In the UK alone there are roughly 22,000 workplace fires every year.
Sure, it’s easy to gloss over with an “It’ll never happen to me” attitude. Though if a fire does occur on your premises and you’ve not met your legal responsibilities as a business owner, you can be fined and possibly spend time in prison. Last year a London business incurred a penalty of more than £80,000 for safety failings which “exposed a potentially large number of people to risk of death or serious injury from fire”.
Most people believe they are well informed about fire security, but are only aware of outdated systems. For instance, sprinkler systems come to mind for many when thinking about traditional fire safety measures, but this technology is very outdated and can destroy the business premises in the process of extinguishing a fire. In this day and age, this is an unnecessary sacrifice, especially in the instance of a false alarm.
An extensive range of fire detection/suppression systems are now widely available. A thorough risk assessment is crucial before beginning to scale your building with the latest technology, to inform you of the drawbacks within your property which need to be addressed.
Conducting a Fire Risk Assessment
In theory, any worker can carry out a fire risk assessment, but the law states this should be a ‘suitably competent’ individual. Usually a high ranking employee who understands the responsibility of this task would take this on, such as a manager or supervisor. As the business owner, it’s your duty to select this person.
The process of conducting a fire risk assessment can be broken down into the following steps:
1. Identify Fire Hazards - This includes electrical equipment or installed and portable heating devices on site, which could be a potential source of ignition.
2. Identify People at Risk - The total number of employees, potential customers and any members of staff with health concerns or mobility issues should be recognised.
3. Assess Existing Detection/Suppression Systems - Checking fire security systems are properly installed, maintained and working correctly, such as testing fire alarms.
4. Evaluate, Reduce or Remove Risks - Once areas of concern have been identified, you need to act upon what you have discovered. This includes ensuring key areas are clear of hazards, escape routes are sufficient and accessible, and any identified risks have been resolved or minimised.
5. Record Findings & Assess Existing Protocol - Keep detailed records of the fire risk assessment and evaluate existing emergency plans, in relation to the new assessment. Make sure the correct testing and maintenance procedures are in place.
6. Update/Improve Emergency Plan & Provide Training - Making sure adequate plans are in place to sound the alarm in the event of a fire. Employees need to be aware of the fire protocol.
7. Review & Update Regularly - A fire risk assessment should take place annually, but it is wise to regularly check for hazards and weak points to fire security. If it comes to your attention that an aspect of the fire security system is damaged post assessment, do not wait until the annual assessment to fix this.
Consider Updating or Expanding Systems - The risk assessment may reveal that your current system is outdated or could use additional features to make it more efficient and protective. Newer technology including air sampling and CO2 suppression systems can elevate fire security and offer a greater assurance that your building is protected. Air sampling such as the Very Early Smoke Detection Apparatus (VESDA) can alert to the possibility of a fire before it fully develops, by continually analysing air within your premises.
It only takes a single fire in the workplace to have the potential to ruin your business for good. That’s the cold-hard truth. Sure, it’s not a pleasant thought, but ignorance to protocol can be costly, fatal and a huge risk to yourself and those around you. Without preparing for the worst, you won't be able to react accordingly if the worst were to become a reality.
Due to the nature of the risks involved in fire safety, many businesses will choose to hire an external fire risk assessor to carry out their assessment. A specialist can offer first-class insight and guidance to give you the peace of mind that you’ve taken all the appropriate measures to protect your employees, customers and assets. This service ensures that the document is prepared by someone with expertise, saving you the time and hassle of carrying it out yourself.
When looking for a great fire risk assessment partner, make sure to certify that you're placing your business’ safety in trustworthy hands. A firm will need to access all areas of your premises, assessing the risks and recording their findings. For this reason, ensure they have adequate insurance cover, a strong reputation, verified reviews and experience. Lots of experience.
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At The Chris Lewis Group we have been protecting commercial premises since 1993 and understand the importance of a thorough fire risk assessment. We have extensive experience with systems in a wide range of commercial buildings. We work with the industry’s leading technology solutions to keep your building protected around the clock and give you peace of mind, whether you’re inside or on-the-go.
Already have a system in place? No problem. We offer a range of support for people with existing systems, including maintenance packages, upgrades, restorations and even integration support if that’s all you need us for.
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