The Regulatory Reform Order requires that all owners/managers of properties in London that are open to members of the public or have employees complete regular fire risk assessments. It is important that the assessment is comprehensive, considered, and communicated clearly to all those who need to know about it. Here is what should be included in the fire risk assessment for your London business.
1. Obtain information and data about the building, including the processes carried out in the premises as well as people either present or likely to be
If you run a shopping mall that is open to a large number of people who are coming and going throughout the day, then the way you manage an evacuation would be different to how you would manage one if you ran a small office. If you run a school or a training facility of some form with scheduled classes, then you can take registers, and will know who is in the building at all times.
2. Identify both fire hazards but also means for their control or elimination
Electrical devices, gas cylinders, cooking facilities, heaters, and flammable objects could all be fire hazards. Even open plastic bins could be a hazard if members of the public were to choose to smoke in the area. Take a moment to identify the fire hazards, and also the means that you would use to control a fire in that area, or eliminate it.
3. Assess the likelihood of any fire
Be realistic about the potential for a fire in different areas. Some London buildings truly do have a very low level of risk when it comes to fires. Some buildings, and some rooms in specific buildings, are high risk. A fire in a kitchen is likely. A fire in a hotel room is another likely possibility given that you cannot control what guests do.
4. Determine any fire protection measures present
Fire protection measures can vary from using steel bins to stop fires in garbage cans from spreading, to having sprinkler systems in all rooms. You should have portable fire extinguishers on hand to use for small fires, and perhaps a fire blanket in the kitchen if appropriate. Smoke alarms are valuable for alerting people, and you should have clearly marked exits that are always kept unobstructed, so if people need to leave the building quickly, they can do so.
5. Obtain related information regarding fire safety management
A risk assessment highlights the potential issues and ways of mitigating them, but it should not be the only document that you have. Ideally, you should have something in your employee handbook / volunteer training that will help people understand what they should be doing in an emergency. All new employees should be advised of where fire safety equipment is and how to operate it. In some environments, you may opt to advise visitors of fire exits and other safety information too.
6. Create assessment of the most likely repercussions to individuals if a fire happens
This assessment should consider how damaging a fire is likely to be, and how quickly people would be able to evacuate, as well as the risk to health. If your property has highly flammable objects in it, are those objects going to release dangerous fumes? How quickly and safely would people be able to evacuate? How quickly would the property manager be able to determine whether all occupants had evacuated?
7. Assess the overall fire risk
A fire in a train station may affect one small area of one platform, and burn out without causing any significant damage or loss of life. A fire in a hotel room could spread quickly from room to room if the sprinkler systems do not activate. It is important to have a clear understanding of both how likely a fire is, and how serious such a fire would be.
8. Formulate and document an action plan
Once you have an understanding of both of those questions it becomes easier to lay out what employees and occupants should do in the event of a fire. The action plan should include methods to reduce the risk of fire in the first place, lay out what the immediate response to a fire should be, and detail the responsibilities of those in charge of the building, to ensure a swift evacuation and that the fire is controlled and put out as quickly as possible.
9. Define a date by which a fire risk assessment needs to be reviewed
Your fire risk assessment should be reviewed on a regular basis. The law does not define “regular”, but leaves the decision up to the person who is responsible for fire safety. It is important that the risk assessment is reviewed whenever there are new machines fitted, or changes to the building. Revisiting the policy roughly once a year is a good starting point.