Recent events have clearly highlighted the responsibilities of a building’s ‘Responsible Person’ in terms of fire regulations and part of this responsibility includes the requirement to conduct a fire risk assessment. However, apart from stating that an assessment must be carried out, the Fire Safety Regulations of 2005 contain no set standards as to how fire safety assessments should be completed and nor is there any requirement to use a specialist fire assessor.
The Fire Industry Association (FIA) recommends a robust fire risk assessment, carried out by a competent individual, to ensure that all parts of the building have been accounted for and the risks have been considered and planned for. The risk assessment will highlight not only what fire protection equipment is needed but also where. Alternatively, a business’s ‘Responsible person’ is also deemed to be competent to carry out their own fire risk assessment under the 2005 Fire Safety Order and in this case, the self-assessment will need to consider every area of fire detection, containment and control.
So, if you are responsible for fire safety in a building, what are the implications of undertaking the fire risk assessment yourself?
It may sound obvious, but a fair level of competence is required, for example:
- You need to be able to identify hazards
- You need to be able to identify building issues
- You need to be able to identify people at risk such as lone workers, young people and those with mobility issues
- You need the knowledge to evaluate, remove, reduce and protect from risk
- You will need to formally record your assessment/s and put a plan in place to mitigate risk
- You will need to carry out training of your building’s users
- You can find a list of other items you will need to consider in one of our previous blog posts here
The biggest benefit of carrying out a DIY fire risk assessment is that there is no cost implication, only your time is involved and you can carry it out at a time most convenient to you. You also know your building better than anyone and can own the situation regarding changes that need to be made as a result of risks being identified.
On the other hand, the potential risks of undertaking a DIY assessment could be that you may inadvertently turn a blind eye to issues or perhaps not be impartial enough through concern that you might upset colleagues, or you may simply fail to recognize a risk. You will also need to undertake initial and ongoing training in order to keep up to date with regulations and best practice, etc. Suitable assessor training information is available from both The Institution of Fire Engineers (IFC) and The Fire Protection Association (FPA).
A specialist assessor on the other hand will have been continuously trained and will most certainly be impartial. They can also be relied upon to provide ‘compliant’ risk assessments and will bring new ideas and different views
However, having a thorough, comprehensive fire risk assessment done by a competent fire risk assessor is likely to be costly. But cheap is certainly not the best option in this situation so beware of finding an assessor through a Google Search for example, who says they can get you fully compliant in a few days, will beat any other quote or are quoting just £99 to complete the whole thing as this is simply not possible if they are undertaking a comprehensive fire risk assessment!
Whether you choose to take the DIY approach or employ a specialist fire risk assessor, the most important thing to bear in mind is that firstly, no amount of training can replace experience and secondly, as the ‘Responsible Person’ you retain the responsibility for ensuring the adequacy of that assessment. If employing a specialist to undertake your fire risk assessment, you should make reasonable checks to ensure that they are competent to do the job properly. Help is available from the Fire Risk Assessment Competency Council who have criteria for assessing competency of fire risk assessors or http://www.london-fire.gov.uk/Documents/guidance-choosing-a-competent-fire-risk-assessor.pdf which also provides guidance on choosing a competent fire assessor.
Life is precious and property and assets matter, so at Fire Depot we make it our mission to provide quality, approved fire protection equipment and to share fire safety advice and fire equipment recommendations. Visit www.firedepot.co.uk for more fire safety product information or call us on 0330 999 2233 to speak to our friendly team of experts.