Is your fire risk assessment legally 'suitable and sufficient'?
Most businesses and some property owners know that they need a fire risk assessment. The problem is there are so many companies offering these services at wildly differing prices. Surely one should just go with the cheapest quote as a fire risk assessment is a fire risk assessment right? The more expensive companies are just trying to rip you off, charging higher fee's to do exactly the same thing? Sadly this is the attitude of a lot of business owners and landlords of HMO's and flats.
All risk assessments are most definitely not the same. We have been called out many times to do fire risk assessments that have previously been done by another company. Once the local authority or fire authority inspected these risk assessments, they were rejected as not being 'suitable and sufficient'. The company owners or landlords therefore had to pay again to get a second FRA carried out at a much higher cost. It is mostly true with risk assessments as it is in life - you get what you pay for.
The government has only outlined the principles for carrying out a suitable and appropriate fire risk assessment. Initially, this resulted in an abundance of methods and templates from many sources, with little information on their applicability for usage on structures with differing degrees of complexity and risk. They ranged from straightforward checklists and checkbox exercises to assessment matrices and more intricate forms.
The majority of experts think that British Standards' PAS79 specifies an appropriate approach and offers templates for assessors to use. It is important to note that while this too uses a check box technique, it also offers the chance for "relevant information" to be recorded in respect to the important elements. Unfortunately, a lot of assessors believe that completing the PAS 79 assessment template without fully capturing the necessary information is appropriate and acceptable.
Naturally, the client, who is depending on the assessor's competence, is unlikely to be aware of any other factors or dispute the chosen strategy. However, answering positively to the question "Is the design and maintenance of the means of escape considered adequate?" without providing sufficient detail as to why the assessor thinks the means of escape are adequate—other than in response to the supplementary questions—does not prove the case, is wholly subjective, and does not permit for critical review.
Sufficient detail is needed to clearly indicate that all relevant issues have been considered, the results of those considerations, and to allow for critical review in order to produce a "appropriate and sufficient" assessment as required by law. A fire risk assessment cannot be a straightforward check-the-box exercise; instead, it must demonstrate how risks and the resulting risk have been controlled to the lowest level that is reasonably practicable.
This lengthens and complicates the fire risk assessment procedure, which has an impact on cost. However, if you are content with ensuring you have a fire risk assessment to check off that specific legal requirement regardless of its quality and are willing to take the chance that you won't ever receive a visit from the fire and rescue service, there are many providers who will do that for you quickly and affordably.
Is that a risk you are willing to take in light of the considerable changes in the regulatory landscape for fire safety, particularly in relation to competency? The fire safety team will likely visit your location when you call the fire and rescue services about a fire or a false alarm, and similar visits may be planned as part of their enforcement schedules.
We may not be the cheapest fire risk assessors out there, clearly, however being ex-London Fire Brigade officers we know exactly what we are doing, having served in London for all of our careers. We have so much confidence in our FRA's that we guarantee that they will satisfy both local government and fire brigade enforcement standards. Make sure you only pay for once fire risk assessment by getting it done properly the first time. Contact London's fastest growing fire risk assessment company today to see how we can help you.