This is a good question. Since the Reform Order for Fire was introduced in 2006, many employers and business owners are still unaware what an assessment is, that they are responsible for ensuring the assessment is in place, and that it is suitable and sufficient.
The Reform Order states that "The responsible person must make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to which relevant persons are exposed for the purpose of identifying the general fire precautions he needs to take to comply with the requirements and prohibitions imposed on him by or under this Order." In a nutshell the assessment is a systematic analysis of the workplace, identifying potential fire risks, who is at risk and specifying what actions are required to correct any issues.
The Local Government website provides guides on the assessment process such as the entry level guide.
There are 5 steps to carrying out the Fire Risk Assessment:
Identify fire hazards
• sources of ignition;
• sources of fuel; and
• sources of oxygen.
Identify people at risk
• people in and around the premises; and
• people who are especially at risk.
Evaluate, remove or reduce, and protect from risk
• Evaluate the risk of a fire starting.
• Evaluate the risk to people from a fire.
• Remove or reduce fire hazards.
• Remove or reduce the risks to people from a fire.
• Protect people by providing fire precautions.
Record, plan, inform, instruct, and train
• Record any major findings and action you have taken.
• Discuss and work with other responsible people.
• Prepare an emergency plan.
• Inform and instruct relevant people.
• Provide training.
• Review your fire-risk assessment regularly.
• Make changes where necessary.
The Fire Risk Assessment process is not a one off activity - remember to review your Fire Risk Assessment regularly.
When carrying out the assessment, firstly ask yourself the question "Am I competent enough in fire safety to carry out the assessment?". This is by no means a patronising question. At the end of the day it's a matter of life safety, and could you or the person responsible for fire safety sufficiently identify if the correct type of detection is installed, if means of escape routes are adequate and if there are the correct number and type of extinguishers in your premises?
If the inspecting authorities visit and the Fire Risk Assessment is not deemed suitable and sufficient, notice may be served requiring you to have the assessment carried out correctly. Prosecutions are regular, and cost businesses thousands more than having the assessment carried out by an external consultant.
If you need help or advice with fire safety, please get in touch on 01246 434 314.