Anyone who’s responsible for premises – such as an employer, owner or occupier of that building – must ensure fire risk assessments are in place and up-to-date. The risk assessment process is seen as crucial to fire safety. It’s also a legal requirement.
To be effective, risk assessments should address the actual fire hazards in your workplace. They should lead to real improvements. To ensure they continue to meet your site risks, they must also be reviewed. How often should a fire risk assessment be reviewed? We explain everything you need to know about reviewing fire risk assessments and updating your fire safety plans in this blog.
The Importance of Fire Risk Assessments
Fire poses a significant risk to both your business and your staff. A fire needs just seconds to start and can completely engulf a building in minutes. Most small to medium businesses that experience fire never recover from the damage it causes, according to leading fire authorities such as the London Fire Brigade.
Fire risk assessments are integral to prevention. They allow you to carefully identify how and where a fire could start. By pinpointing exactly what areas and activities have the biggest risk of fire, you can develop and implement measures to control or eliminate these risks.
In addition to being an essential for fire safety, business owners are legally obliged to conduct fire risk assessments. Every business owner must comply with the Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order 2005 (RRO). If you are found to have breached the RRO, you could face serious criminal charges resulting in unlimited fines or imprisonment.
Understanding the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005
If you’re a business owner, a manager, a supervisor, or the owner of a building, you need to fully understand your fire safety responsibilities under the RRO. One of the main duties that business owners have is to conduct fire risk assessments.
The RRO explicitly states that: ‘The responsible person must make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to which relevant persons are exposed for the purpose of identifying the general fire precautions he needs to take to comply with the requirements and prohibitions imposed on him by or under this Order.’
A ‘responsible person’ is defined by the RRO as being ‘the employer, if the workplace is to any extent under his control’ or as any person who has a degree of control over the work carried out on the premises. If the person in control of the building has no connection to the work being carried out, the owner of the building acts as the ‘responsible person’.
The Five Steps of a Workplace Fire Assessment
To conduct a fire risk assessment that is compliant with the RRO, you should carefully follow the following five steps:
Step One: Identify the Hazards
Fires require three things to start: Ignition, fuel and oxygen. Consider each in turn and consider what potential sources there are in your workplace. Consider things such as how duties are performed, how flammable substances are stored or any areas where they may build up. Consider the building layout and any potential sources of oxygen.
Step Two: Who Might Be Harmed?
At this step, assess who is at risk of harm and how they may be harmed. This could be yourself, your staff, or members of the general public. Special consideration should be taken for any who may be at greater risk. For instance, care facilities must account for any patients that may not be as mobile as others.
Step Three: Assess and Control the Risk
Assess the severity of each risk, then carry out measures to eliminate or control the risks. For example, you may need to change work procedures, install more safety equipment or increase ventilation in your workplace.
If build up of flammable substances, such as packaging is occurring, install regular housekeeping measures.
Step Four: Record
Make a record of all findings. This is not legally required for a business that has less than five staff members, but it is advisable. The record can be in paper or digital form and should contain information on your fire safety plans including all control measures, emergency procedures and fire safety training.
Step Five: Review
Regularly review your fire risk assessment and make changes to your fire safety plans or control measures as necessary.
How Often Should Fire Risk Assessments be Reviewed?
It can be difficult to know exactly when you need to review fire risk assessments. The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 does not contain specific details on how often a risk assessment must be reviewed.
However, under section 9 (3), the RRO does state that:
In practice, this means that you need to conduct a review whenever you change anything in your work environment that could alter the effectiveness of the risk assessment. If you, or any of your employees, believe that the fire risk assessment is no longer effective, it must be reviewed.
If there have been no significant changes to how you conduct your work, how many staff members you employ, or the premises you work in, then it’s standard practice to conduct a fire risk assessment review at least once every 12 months.
Can You Carry out a Fire Risk Assessment Yourself?
As we’ve seen, under the RRO, the responsible person must ensure that fire risk assessments are carried out. You can conduct a fire risk assessment yourself or you can appoint a ‘competent person’ to conduct the review on your behalf. This could be an employee or a professional fire risk assessor.
A competent person must have ‘sufficient training and experience or knowledge and other qualities to enable him properly to assist in undertaking the preventive and protective measures.’
Get the Right Risk Assessment Training
Conducting a fire risk assessment and reviewing it regularly is an essential part of fire safety and your legal obligation as an employer. With the right training, you and your staff can learn the skills you need to perform and review fire risk assessments as per the RRO. This knowledge will ensure you comply with the law and could save your business from the catastrophic effects of a fire.
We provide Risk Assessment Training courses that teach participants the correct way to conduct risk assessments and how to apply the findings in the workplace. Trainees will also learn when to review fire risk assessments. The course is online and can be taken in one session or it can be completed as and when you have time. Discounts are available for bulk purchases.