Can I carry out my own fire risk assessment?
This is a question that we at London Fire Associates get asked frequently. Whilst it is advisable to engage a professional fire risk assessment company or fire risk assessor to carry out your FRA with in-depth knowledge of The Fire Safety Order 2005, you can carry out a FRA yourself.
If you wish to carry out your own fire risk assessment, here is some useful information to consider when doing so.
General fire safety hazards
Fires need three things to start – a source of ignition (heat), a source of fuel (something that burns) and oxygen:
sources of ignition include heaters, lighting, naked flames, electrical equipment, smokers' materials (cigarettes, matches etc), and anything else that can get very hot or cause sparks
sources of fuel include wood, paper, plastic, rubber or foam, loose packaging materials, waste rubbish and furniture
sources of oxygen include the air around us
What do I have to do?
Employers (and/or building owners or occupiers) must carry out a fire safety risk assessment and keep it up to date. This shares the same approach as health and safety risk assessments and can be carried out either as part of an overall risk assessment or as a separate exercise.
Based on the findings of the assessment, employers need to ensure that adequate and appropriate fire safety measures are in place to minimise the risk of injury or loss of life in the event of a fire.
To help prevent fire in the workplace, your risk assessment should identify what could cause a fire to start, ie sources of ignition (heat or sparks) and substances that burn, and the people who may be at risk.
Once you have identified the risks, you can take appropriate action to control them. Consider whether you can avoid them altogether or, if this is not possible, how you can reduce the risks and manage them. Also consider how you will protect people if there is a fire.
Carry out a fire safety risk assessment
Keep sources of ignition and flammable substances apart
Avoid accidental fires, eg make sure heaters cannot be knocked over
Ensure good housekeeping at all times, eg avoid build-up of rubbish that could burn
Consider how to detect fires and how to warn people quickly if they start, eg installing smoke alarms and fire alarms or bells
Have the correct fire-fighting equipment for putting a fire out quickly
Keep fire exits and escape routes clearly marked and unobstructed at all times
Ensure your workers receive appropriate training on procedures they need to follow, including fire drills
Review and update your risk assessment regularly
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 covers general fire safety in England and Wales.
In Scotland, requirements on general fire safety are covered in Part 3 of the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005, supported by the Fire Safety (Scotland) Regulations 2006.
In the majority of premises, local fire and rescue authorities are responsible for enforcing this fire safety legislation. HSE has enforcement responsibility on construction sites and on ships under construction or undergoing repair.
Dangerous substances that cause fire and explosion
Work which involves the storage, use or creation of chemicals, vapours, dusts etc that can readily burn or explode is hazardous. Each year people are injured at work by flammable substances accidentally catching fire or exploding.
What are the hazards?
Many substances found in the workplace can cause fires or explosions. These range from the obvious, eg flammable chemicals, petrol, cellulose paint thinners and welding gases, to the less obvious – engine oil, grease, packaging materials, dusts from wood, flour and sugar.
It is important to be aware of the risks and to control or get rid of them to prevent accidents.
What do I have to do?
To help prevent accidental fires or explosions, you first need to identify:
what substances, materials, processes etc have the potential to cause such an event, ie substances that burn or can explode and what might set them alight
the people who may be at risk/harmed
Once you have identified the risks, you should consider what measures are needed to reduce or remove the risk of people being harmed. This will include measures to prevent these incidents happening in the first place, as well as precautions that will protect people from harm if there is a fire or explosion.
Key points to remember
Think about the risks of fire and explosions from the substances you use or create in your business and consider how you might remove or reduce the risks
Use supplier safety data sheets as a source of information about which substances might be flammable
Consider reducing the amount of flammable/explosive substances you store on site
Keep sources of ignition (eg naked flames, sparks) and substances that burn (eg vapour, dusts) apart
Get rid of flammable/explosive substances safely
Review your risk assessment regularly
Maintain good housekeeping, eg avoid build-up of rubbish, dust or grease that could start a fire or make one worse
You also need to consider the presence of dangerous substances that can result in fires or explosions as part of your fire safety risk assessment. This is required under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (in England and Wales) and under Part 3 of the Fire (Scotland) Act.