Preparing and completing fire risk assessments for your business can be incredibly daunting; The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 weighs in at a hefty 65 pages, and is unlikely to ever be referred to as ‘light reading’.
So, how do you know that you’ve adequately protected yourself when you’re confronted by a paper that is written by experts? The answer is to keep it as simple as possible, and ensure that what you are documenting is relevant to your business. It might seem like a good idea to download some free templates from the internet, but unless they make sense in the context of your premises and your core activities they are unlikely to be useful, or to meet your legal obligations in the event that the worst does happen. The most important thing is to make sure that you document everything that you do to remove risk, protect your staff and ensure that your business doesn’t suffer as the result of a fire. Apart from the legal implications, your insurance company is unlikely to look kindly on any business that doesn’t have a plan in place for disaster management. So, what are the steps that you need to take?
How to Complete a Fire Risk Assessment – No 1. Identify the Hazards
Before you do anything, you need to take a long, critical look at your operations and premises. Realistically, what are the hazards that you face on a daily basis? It’s important to remember that ‘hazards’ aren’t always as visible or obvious as containers of flammable chemicals; if you have frequent visitors to your premises who aren’t familiar with the layout or potential escape routes, they can become a hazard themselves. Fires are frightening, confusing and disorientating – if you add large numbers of people who have no idea how to get out to that mix, even a small incident can rapidly become lethal.
How to Complete a Fire Risk Assessment – No 2. Evaluate your Findings
Once you have a list of potential concerns, it’s time to evaluate them – how you can reduce the risk that they present? This could be as easy as making sure that you only order the bare minimum of any flammable chemicals, or as in-depth as providing Fire Marshal training to your team, enabling them to coordinate an evacuation in the event of a disaster. It’s always better to completely remove risk than reduce, it if you can – for example, going paperless is not only good for the environment (and your budget!), but it completely removes one of the biggest sources of fuel in your premises.
How to Complete a Fire Risk Assessment – No 3. Record Everything
This is almost certainly the most important step in the whole process. If your business does suffer a fire, the Fire Service will need to see everything that you have relating to the potential hazards that are present in your premises. They could very well be sending personnel into a burning building, and not being able to present them with a cohesive list of everything that they might encounter will endanger lives. Your insurance company will also want to know that you’ve done everything that you can to prevent fire in the first place, and also to mitigate any losses. Your records could be the difference between a fast payout and a disputed or reduced claim.
How to Complete a Fire Risk Assessment – No 4. Review Appropriately
We’d all like to think that fire risk assessments are a ‘one and done’ process, but sadly that isn’t the case. You should be looking to review your FRA’s at least annually, and if your premises is large or complex (or has unusually high risk factors such as being accessible to the public) you should really be doing them more frequently than that. Equally important is reviewing following any changes – for example, if you have a building refurbishment you need to be sure that it hasn’t altered escape routes, created additional hazards, or blocked access to fire-fighting equipment.
Even with only four steps, it’s clear that fire risk assessments can be a lot of work. This can make it all too easy to keep pushing them further down your ‘to-do’ list, while you focus on your core business activities. If you feel like you are in any danger of putting it off, it’s critical that you consider either employing someone to take care of all of your health and safety, or contract an expert 3rd party to do it for you. Not only could a lack of appropriate FRA’s for your business potentially end in prosecution, it could also end in loss of life – and that’s a risk that. If you would like to find out about our fire risk assessment service, click the link and contact our team.