Why have a professional Fire Risk Assessment?

 

Why do I need a Fire Risk Assessment in the first place?

A Fire Risk Assessment (also referred to as an FRA) is designed to minimise the probability of the event of a fire by identifying the potential hazards and fire risks within a building.

All non-domestic properties are required by law to have an FRA in place as stipulated in the Regulatory Reform Act (Fire Safety) 2005. If your business has 5 or more employees, or you operate your business from more than one premises, then the findings of the FRA also need to be documented and a record kept.

An FRA should include not only the physical aspects of the premises but also those who inhabit it. Staff training is critical in preventing loss of life in a fire situation, so this must also be included in any Fire Risk Assessment.

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Who’s responsible for the Fire Risk Assessment?

You are responsible for fire safety in business or other non-domestic premises if you are:

  • An Employer
  • The Owner
  • The Landlord
  • An Occupier

Or indeed anyone else with control of the premises, e.g. a facilities manager, building manager, or managing agent; You are known as the ‘responsible person’. If there’s more than one responsible person, you must work together to meet your responsibilities.

You can however appoint a 3rd party to complete the risk assessment on your behalf, this person is referred to as a ‘competent person’. The 3rd party can be anyone you wish, however, choosing a fire protection company to complete your FRA can have many benefits beyond just the Fire Risk Assessment.

The key points to note regarding your Fire Risk Assessment are:

  • The responsible / competent person must make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks.
  • The responsible person must review any such assessment regularly and also following a significant change. It is recommended as a minimum it is reviewed annually to keep it up to date and in particular if there is a reason to suspect that it is no longer valid or there has been a significant change in the matters to which it relates. This could include when the premises, or technical organisational measures, or organisation of the work undergo significant changes, alterations, or extensions. If such a significant change has occurred, then the FRA must be reviewed no matter when it was completed.
  • The prescribed information (commonly known as the ‘Action Plan’) is the significant findings of the assessment, including measures which have been or will be taken by the responsible person.

It is important to note the ‘suitable and sufficient’ part of the Act. Whether your FRA is suitable and sufficient is open to interpretation, what is suitable for one property certainly won’t be suitable for another. It makes sense then that the FRA must be tailored to each specific building. The assessment needs updating and reviewing when any significant changes occur, such as when a room is re purposed, the responsible people change or the usage of the building changes.  We always recommend the FRA is reviewed annually, even if no significant changes have occurred.

So why does this matter to me?

A recent investigation proved that many business owners choose a third party to complete their fire risk assessment, as ultimately should anything go wrong it is the responsible person who will face legal action. Ideally business owners should choose a professional fire protection company.  Legislation allows the responsible person to appoint a 3rd party to complete their Fire Risk Assessment on their behalf. The choice of that 3rd party is entirely up to the responsible person, they can appoint anyone they wish, as long as the responsible person deems them ‘competent’.

The issue here of course is that the responsible person, for various reasons, does not use a professional fire risk assessor and chooses someone who does not have the depth of knowledge and a background in fire risk assessments, or has not received sufficient training in order to accurately assess hazards present in the workplace.

Unsurprisingly, without the years of experience gained from assessing hazards in a workplace environment, and the ability to fully analyse the risks found, how can the ‘competent person’ be sure that any risks haven’t been missed?

The potential for a dangerous fire risk to exist, yet the responsible person not being aware of it, is very real and unfortunately also very common. A recent investigation carried out during a review of the Fire of Scotland Act discovered that there was a huge lack of understanding of what is required in a fire risk assessment:

‘UK Fire and Rescue Service statistics… highlight that from a sample of 457 premises, 130 premises did not have a risk assessment carried out and from the 315 premises that did have a risk assessment carried out, the fire safety measures in place were considered to be totally adequate in only one premises.’ 

 

So what should I do about it?

It stands to reason that where we have a critical safety tool that forms the bedrock of the fire and life safety policy of a company, that tool needs to be as thorough and as accurate as it can be. The hazards identified by it need to be presented in a form that is not only easy to understand but can be used as a working document to ensure those hazards are eliminated or at least mitigated. There needs to be a workable action plan included with it that considers not only the physical hazards in the premises but also staff knowledge and frequency of training.

Simply put, if your current Fire Risk Assessment does not meet these requirements then it is not ‘suitable and sufficient’ for use.

It is therefore no surprise that the Fire Industry Association and the British Safety Industry Federation both recommend that where the responsible person lacks the requisite skill, knowledge, experience, and competence to produce a sufficient and suitable fire risk assessment then a professional Fire Risk Assessor should be appointed.

It is worth noting that in the event of a fire; your insurance company would require a copy of the fire risk assessment before they agree to pay out for any damage. If in their opinion it is not suitable and sufficient for use, a business owner could find themselves with a potentially ruinous bill to cover the damage. A professional fire protection company would of course indemnify a client for if their FRA was not suitable and sufficient, giving further peace of mind that your business is protected.

The difference between trying to produce a safety critical document using templates from the internet and having a professionally produced, industry approved Fire Risk Assessment is similar to paying a qualified mechanic to service your car, or choosing to do it yourself.

Whilst it’s possible to complete the work, it will take a lot longer, most likely cost more overall and won’t be guaranteed to reach the same standard.

In the same way you would contact an expert to advise or manage any other workplace legal and safety requirement, would you really feel confident to leave such a critical factor of your business with someone who isn’t?

A professionally created Fire Risk Assessment will not only help ensure your business is fire safe but it is the ‘roadmap’ of how your fire protection services function. By getting it right first time, a correctly produced FRA will save you from considerable wasted investment in the future.

The benefits of partnering with a professional fire safety company such as MAGG Group will go far beyond just having a Fire Risk Assessment that you can rely on to keep your business safe. We offer expert counsel on a wide range of topics, including upgrading technology such as fire alarm panels and emergency lighting along with installation, testing and maintenance, fire extinguishers, employee training and much more.

Knowledge in these areas can save you thousands of pounds, as there are many ways to solve a problem and a professional assessor will help you choose the most cost effective solution for you without compromising safety.

What if I have already completed my Fire Risk Assessment?

We often get asked by customers to review their current Fire Risk Assessment and our services range from a quick and free review to ensure your document is suitable and sufficient, creating a bespoke document for you, to taking your assigned ‘competent person’ and training them to be a capable and competent fire risk assessor.

For further information about how a professional Fire Risk Assessment can help you, or if you are unsure of whether your current FRA would be considered suitable and sufficient to satisfy the authorities, please contact us to speak to one of our trained team who can advise you further.