Risk Assessment

It is fair to say that most Brits are now just about full to the back teeth with the winter weather. It has dominated every news channel for days on end and all small talk seems to start with a comment on the state of the snow, how cold it is or how long it will last.

The effects of the snow on our daily lives has exposed the more bizarre consequences of our risk averse society. Schools closed because of the risk that teachers and children may hurt themselves getting to school. Even if the school is open the kids can’t play outside for the same reason and snow ball fights are banned. It seems everything we now do must be first subject to a Risk Assessment. In practice a life cannot be lived without exposure to risk. I actually think taking risks is what drives our progress.

Of course in the fire protection industry we are only too aware of the term Risk Assessment since the introduction of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order (RRO). In some respects this legislation was a step forward in consolidating the myriad pieces of fire safety legislation that existed previously.

The fundamental difference is that the legal responsibility for fire safety within business premises is now firmly in the court of the business owner or “responsible person” as defined under the Act. It is not a defence against non compliance to claim you don’t have the first idea about fire safety. The basics are pretty straightforward common sense.

There are five key steps in conducting a fire risk assessment:

1. Identify the fire hazards – how could a fire start? For a fire to start it needs a fuel, heat and oxygen. Identify any possible source of ignition and combustible materials. Mostly you can assume oxygen is present unless you operate in a vacuum!!

2. Consider who may be a risk – your employees, visitors, and particularly people vulnerable such as children, the elderly and disabled.

3. Assess and act – Based on these considerations and findings, assess the risks and take action to remove and reduce any fire risks. Typically his may involve adding a fire extinguisher, smoke alarm or exit sign, replacing obsolete equipment or better housekeeping.

4. Record, plan and train – Maintain a record of the risks identified (legally required for businesses employing 5 or more) together with the actions taken to reduce or remove them. Produce a fire action plan of how to prevent fires and safety procedures should a fire start. Train staff so they know what to do in the event of a fire and if necessary provide training in the use of fire safety equipment.

5. Review – Review your risk assessment on a regular basis to ensure it remains up to date with any changes made to your organisation.

If in carrying out a risk assessment you decide, as the responsible person, that due to the type or complexity of the business, you just don’t have the necessary skills, you can always appoint an external competent person to do it for you. Most reputable fire safety equipment suppliers offer this service including Fire and Safety Centre.

The bottom line is that a Fire Risk Assessment just has to be done to comply with the Law.