What is a Fire Risk Assessment?
The piece of Legislation called The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order of 2005 which came into force in 2006 is a fire risk assessment based approach where the responsible person for the premises or area where they have control must decide how to address the risks identified.
So how does the Fire Safety Order affect you?
It means that, if you employ more than five people, have a licensed premises or have more than 60 people on the premises, you are legally responsible for providing a fire risk assessment on your premises. If less than five people are employed you must carry out the same assessment but are not obliged to deliver a written document, although it may be good practice to do so. It is important at this stage that we say that a Fire Risk Assessment be carried out by a person who is qualified to do so. Most professional Fire Risk Assessors carry a qualification recognised by IFE (Institute of Fire Engineers) or FPA (Fire Protection Association) but there are other bodies.
The Fire Risk Assessment can be carried out by a member of staff, however the responsibility in the eyes of the law if the fire risk assessment is wrong will lie with them. A professional person will carry the relevant indemnity insurance.
Once you have gone through the process of carrying out said risk assessment you must act on the findings to ensure the premises is safe for you, your employees, the public and fire fighters if they are called. You must continue to maintain the standards detailed in the assessment at all times. Getting staff to understand why you have to be safe and comply will assist you to maintain your premises at the required levels.
You also need to fully document the findings and ensure compliance testing of fire alarms, portable extinguishers, emergency lighting, gas and electrical appliances is carried out at the relevant time and is once again documented fully.
You are the person in charge so getting this right ensures you will be safe and more importantly you will be trading legally with no come back. Ignoring the legislation or pleading ignorance, or just getting it wrong is not a defence if you are challenged. There have been cases where there were no incidents on site yet business owners have been prosecuted and are serving prison sentences for flouting the requirements of the order. The fire service can inspect your property at any time to ensure you are adhering to the legislation.
Some simple advice is to be vigilant every day and look for things like:
- Fire escapes are free and not obstructed
- Fire extinguishers are where they should be
- Fire Alarms and Emergency Lights are checked regularly
- Evacuation plans and muster points are discussed with staff
- Fire Exit and safety signage is present and visible
- Your fire safety log book is up to date
For many small businesses who’s focus is on generating income and paying their bills this can be quite bewildering. The effect of a fire is devastating and most SMEs don’t recover from a serious fire even though they are insured. Be safe and get it right today.