Fire risk assessments should be carried out every year as a minimum and should be a non-negotiable task when conducting a check of Health & Safety Procedures.
But, it is also essential to carry out a further assessment following any changes affecting the premises. Not just structural alterations, but in commercial properties, any increase in staffing levels or reallocation of work spaces. The purpose is to record the preventative measures and emergency procedures already in place, and then to review them thoroughly against present need. So if anything in your premises changes, you need to make sure your fire safety arrangements are still fit for purpose.
Fairhurst Estates have issued a general guide for you to include when conducting fire risk assessments.
Full description of the premises:
This is to give you the basis for a fully informed assessment of all fire risks, and also to plan emergency evacuation procedures. It should cover the number of rooms and their uses, the number of floors and staircases, dimensions of floors and rooms, the times each area and room is in use, and the number of people usually working there. Exits, fire doors, fire resistant walls, location of emergency lighting and fire safety equipment should also be listed. For fire safety equipment, include as much detail as possible, e.g. for fire alarms, list if it is break glass or smoke activated, for fire extinguishers, list the type.
You should also include details about the age and construction of the building, which will give clues about the materials used and level of protection.
As well as a written inventory, you should also include a drawn plan of the building, which can be used to plan evacuation routes.
Identify fire hazards:
Once you have detailed the layout, usages and location of existing fire safety equipment in the premises, you can make a full inventory of any fire risks. These might include:
• Electrical equipment, including lighting
• Heaters and boilers
• Cookers and other hot work points
• Flammable liquids and materials, including stores of wood, paper, cardboard, foam, textiles etc.
• Furniture and furnishings
• Gas fixtures and fittings.
It is important to map where these are, so you are fully aware of potential flash points and can plan evacuation accordingly, and also to check you have the correct fire equipment in place. This is also why it is important to carry out assessments regularly, as things move around, changing the nature of the risk.
The final stage is to collate all of the information you have gathered and use it to create or revise a robust set of protocols should a fire occur.
The starting point for this is the people in the building. As well as having procedures in place for knowing exactly who is in the building at any one time, you should also have an adequate communications system, with named fire marshals taking responsibility for leading evacuation and liaising with one another.
Evacuation routes need to be planned carefully. The main consideration is time to escape, which as a guideline should be a maximum of two to three minutes. But routes should also avoid any major risks factors, like passing stores of flammable material or equipment which could be at risk of explosion. You also need to consider fire doors, vertical evacuation from high floors and routes out of dead end corridors.
Thanks to Fairhurst Estates for sharing their Expert Opinion