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Fire Safety Risk Assessments: The Who, What & How

Let our simple but complete guide on the five steps of fire safety risk assessments show you how you can ensure your company is completely safe and protected from all fire hazards. This guide also provides you with helpful tips for a successful risk assessment that you can finish quickly and error-free.

Nicky Liedtke
by Nicky Liedtke | August 30, 2022 | Reading time: 15 minutes

What Is a Fire Safety Risk Assessment?

A fire safety risk assessment is an inspection process used to evaluate the fire risks in your workplace or factory that could potentially cause damage or injuries to employees, visitors, and customers. The main purpose of these assessments is to make sure everyone and every area in the company remain safe, as well as to anticipate risks before they occur so that management knows how to fix them before any incidents can happen.

This assessment will also help inspectors and quality managers in your company provide data on how often those hazards occur; how to reduce or eliminate accidents and damage to property in the most cost-effective way; and what steps and policies to install to prevent them from happening.

The concept of risk assessments can be traced as far back as 2400 years ago when Athenians used it to calculate risks before making construction decisions. Over the centuries such methods were employed again and again in various capacity until a series of fires in Europe between 1960-1989 led to the creation of the Fire Safety Act.

Such assessments are usually carried out by professionals who have been trained in the field of fire safety. These experts can provide information on how much money you'd spend if something were to happen because of negligence. This will help you make decisions about what kind of insurance coverage you need and consider other protective measures .

A fire safety risk audit can be conducted internally or externally, however, it is always recommended that it be conducted by an expert in the field (either through hiring someone externally or through an assigned person in-house). This ensures that all potential risks are identified and addressed appropriately.

By conducting regular fire safety assessments, your appraisers can:

  • identify any potential hazards before they turn into dangerous situations so that your employees can continue their work without worrying about their own health or well-being in the workplace.
  • evaluate all possible risks and assess how serious they are by considering their probability (how likely something bad will happen), severity (how bad something bad will happen), and duration (how long before something bad happens).
  • ensure compliance with local statutes and regulations related to building codes and standards for work environments and help improve workplace safety and health conditions
  • identify areas where improvements could be made and what appropriate action can be taken to mitigate risks

In this article, you will learn:

1. Why a fire safety risk assessments are important

2. The five steps of fire safety risk assessments to identify safety hazards efficiently

3. The most common office and workplace fire safety hazards

4. What the biggest risk in fire safety is

5. Who is responsible for fire safety in the workplace

6. Whether or not it is a legal requirement to have a fire risk assessment

7. Fire Safety Plan vs. Fire Safety Risk Assessment

8. What are fire safety standards in the UK?

9. Why you need fire safety certificates

10. Best practices for fire risk assessments

11. What a fire safety checklist is

A large fire hose dripping on the ground

Why Is A Fire Risk Assessment Important?

Fire safety risk assessments are important because they can help you identify potential hazards and major problems related to fire and explosions in facilities. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), in 2020 alone, an estimated 490,500 structure fires resulted in more than $12.1 billion in direct property damage. This includes loss of life, injuries, and losses from business interruption. A comprehensive assessment aims to reduce the likelihood of such fire accidents happening.

Such assessments are also important because they are often a requirement for companies that work in quality and safety management. They need this to get insurance coverage for any damage caused by fire or smoke.

A lot of time is often wasted trying to figure out what went wrong in the aftermath of a tragic incident. Preventing disasters from happening in the first place through careful planning and thorough risk assessments beforehand is also simpler. Regular fire safety risk assessments can therefore also help save money by preventing costly damages from occurring. These damages are usually due to negligence from employees who may not know better until after an incident has occurred.

Fire Safety Assessments in 5 Steps: Identify Hazards Efficiently

How many steps make up a fire safety risk assessment? This is, of course, generally dependent on how your company executes its safety policies. Fire safety risk assessments are vital to ensure that an organization is keeping both their employees and customers safe and that they comply with regulatory agencies like OSHA.

But how do you actually carry out a fire safety risk assessment?

Here are the five core steps generally used by industries in their audits, as well as some tips on how to make sure your assessment is carried out successfully:

Step 1: Scan the entire company for fire hazards

It's essential to conduct a thorough scan of all areas where fires are likely to occur in an inspection akin to a so-called Gemba walk This includes examining working conditions, employees' habits and behaviors, equipment used in production processes, and taking inventory of all potential fire hazards in your company. You should also look at how things are stored—for example, if there are any flammable materials such as paints or chemicals onsite at all times.

If so, this will require special attention when conducting the risk assessment because certain precautions must be taken in order to keep these substances safe from damage or misuse by employees who may use them without proper training or supervision.

Further, it is necessary to look at the workplace (or building) from different perspectives and think about what could be considered a hazard in that environment. This includes electrical equipment and furnaces, but also less obvious things like cleaning products or combustible materials.

Be sure to include both internal and external factors when taking inventory of your premises . For example, if your company has multiple floors or buildings, each one needs to be assessed separately because their exposure to fire hazards may vary depending on where they're located within the building(s).

Check for areas where naked flames, heaters, textiles, air conditioning areas, commercial oxygen supplies, ducts, flues, and excessively long escape routes as potential areas for structural outlets for fire hazards.

Step 2: Monitor the people who are at risk

One of the most important parts of the fire safety risk assessment is to figure out who is at risk.This may sound mundane but will help you greatly in setting up protective and preventive measures that keep everyone safe – from production workers to office personnel to janitors or cleaning crews.

The best way to do this is by talking to people who work in the office and asking them a few questions about their job. You should ask them and document what they do every day, what they use in their work, and if they have any concerns or fears related to fire safety. If you are already counting on lean methods in your business strategy, you can rely on the data you gathered during your company walk-throughs, for example.

Some helpful questions to ask would be:

  • How many people sleep on the premises?
  • Are there people who have impairments in sight, hearing, and mobility staying nearby?
  • Are the people working isolated or in groups?
  • Are there elderly or infirm people living near the workplace?
  • Are there contractors or temporary staff who are situated in the problem areas?

Once you have identified all of these risks, it's time to look at all of the factors that could affect them. For example, if someone works with chemicals or has access to flammable liquids , then you will need to make sure that there are no sources of ignition in the area where they work or live. This could include anything from cigarettes to candles or even electrical wiring systems that might be faulty or old.

It’s also important to categorize the level of risks from low, to medium, and high, or from trivial, to moderate, substantial, and high-risk, depending on your company’s unique definitions. and custom checklists

“Low” are areas where there are no combustible materials and flammable substances nearby. The “Medium” risk could be areas where there are some quantities of combustible material, while the “High” risk is those areas where there are substantial quantities of combustible materials and highly combustible materials that are prone to causing rapid spread of fire or smoke.

Step 3: Analyze if the current fire safety measures are sufficient or need improvement

This step requires management to assess in which areas of fire safety the company is struggling. This can be done by analyzing all relevant data (such as records of near-miss accidents) and safety measures recorded, which then will help your management come up with ways to solve the problem areas or install new protocols.

Step 4: Install measures to protect the workplace and people

In this step, you will determine what measures are needed to protect your employees, customers, and other workers, and decide how to implement these measures.

For example, if you're working in an area where there is a risk of fire or explosion, you may need to install fire extinguishers and fire alarms. If there is a risk of falling objects, you might want to install guardrails or safety nets around dangerous areas. If you notice that your workers are using extension cords as permanent fixtures because there aren't enough outlets available, you can install additional outlets right away so that this doesn't happen again to prevent a fire hazard.

Step 5: Regularly update the inspections for improvement

After you've done your inspection, it's important to regularly schedule, update, and review your inspections. This will help you keep track of what's working well in your workplace and what isn't and guarantees continuous improvementYou can also use this time to make sure that everyone is on board with the changes you've made so far,which can help your employees feel more engaged in their day-to-day jobs.

Perform regular inspections of all fire safety systems, equipment, and procedures to ensure they are working properly. The frequency of these inspections depends on the type of facility and the type of fire safety system installed. For example, if you have a sprinkler system, you may only need to perform an inspection once a year. If you have a ​​system that relies on fire extinguishers or smoke detectors, they should be inspected more often.

What Are the Most Common Office and Workplace Fire Safety Hazards?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 3,704 workers died in fires in 2019 alone and fire-related injuries cost an estimated $14.8 billion in 2019, with a large chunk of those costs coming from productivity losses and medical expenditures caused by poor planning and preventive measures.

Between 2011 and 2015, the most common causes of office and workplace fires were: lighting and faulty electrical networks.

Other common fire safety hazards in the workplace include:

  • Smoking materials
  • Chemicals and substances
  • Electrical appliances in the pantry (ex: microwaves, televisions)
  • Improperly stored or discarded materials

What Is the Biggest Risk in Fire Safety?

The biggest risks in fire safety today are toxic gasses, lack of oxygen, and thick smoke. These three dangers can lead to serious health issues, including respiratory problems, burns, and even death. It's important that you understand how these hazards work so that you can take steps to avoid them from penetrating into the workplace.

Toxic gasses are released when a fire starts in your building. These gasses include carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide, and nitrogen dioxide. These gasses can be extremely harmful if you're exposed to them for too long or in large quantities.

Who Is Responsible for Fire Safety in the Workplace?

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 delegates the “Responsible Person” or “Duty Holder” as the person who can carry out a fire risk assessment and other fire safety protocols in the workplace. This person can be taken from among employers, owners, or landlords and will be responsible for ensuring that a workplace is safe from fire.

It is the duty of the Responsible Person to ensure that the emergency exits, fire drills, suppression systems, fire extinguishers, and other protection systems are installed on the company premises all the time.

This means that if you're an employer, manager, or property owner, it's your job to ensure that your workplace complies with all fire safety regulations. You can do this by picking a “responsible person” and making sure your staff knows how to protect themselves from fires when they happen.

If you're an employee, it should also be your responsibility to know what action to take in case of a fire or other emergency per the responsible person’s policies. Where are the exits and fire extinguishers located? Is there an active safety protocol in place? These are questions that need to be reviewed and discussed regularly in order to make sure that each and every person involved is on the same page when it comes to fire safety.

A red and orange infographic depiciting the 5 steps of fire safety

According to Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order (RR(FS)O) established in 2006, it is a legal requirement to have a fire risk assessment. The law was introduced to protect workers and helps businesses meet their legal obligations and make it mandatory for all employers to plan, manage and monitor risks from fire, explosion, and other serious accidents. The mandate also requires employers to carry out regular inspections of buildings, equipment, and systems that might present a risk to employees’ health and safety.

In order to comply with the law, the Responsible Person/s should be aware of their responsibilities as the safety officer/s. They should know what their obligations are under the law, and how they apply to the business. A fire risk assessment is an important step in managing your company's safety and quality management to meet such compliance requirements and avoid penalties.

Authorities also recommend conducting fire risk assessments regularly so that if something happens, the entire management will be ready with a concrete plan of action. For example, the company’s Responsible Person should be in charge of regularly ensuring that the stairwells, reception areas, delivery points, and communal parts of the building already have policies and procedures in place from the top down to protect from fire hazards.

Is a Fire Safety Plan a Fire Risk Assessment?

As a business owner or manager, you've likely been asked to conduct a fire risk assessment and create a fire safety plan. But have you ever wondered if they're the same thing?

The short answer is no. While both are important, they ultimately have different purposes and should be conducted at different times in your business's lifecycle. A fire safety plan is designed to help you plan for what will happen if there is an emergency in your workplace. It outlines the steps you'll need to take when that happens: evacuation procedures, location of emergency exits and equipment, who will be responsible for certain tasks, etc. It can also include information about how you will handle any injuries or property damage that occurs as a result of the incident.

This means taking stock of things like how much fuel is stored onsite; whether there are any electrical malfunctions; whether workers have access to protective clothing and other safety equipmentetc., then figuring out how best to address any risks that arise from those issues (such as installing sprinklers or changing policies about clothing).

A fire safety risk assessment, on the other hand, is more comprehensive. It involves looking at all aspects of your business—including employee training, building design, and materials used to make products—and determining how likely each aspect is to cause a fire (or other hazards) and what could happen if one did occur.

This assessment helps you identify problems before they happen so you can implement solutions that will reduce the likelihood of accidents or injuries. You then execute the fire safety plan when fires or other hazards occur within your organization's facilities or operations.

What Are the Fire Safety Regulations/Fire Safety Standards in the UK?

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 defines all the fire safety regulations and standards in the U.K. It applies to England, Wales, and other countries, and requires all occupiers of premises to take all reasonable steps to assess the risks from fire and take appropriate steps to reduce those risks. It also requires that they have adequate measures in place to protect people in case of a fire.

Its provisions include the rule that the occupier must ensure that everyone who works on or visits the premises is aware of their responsibilities when it comes to fire safety. This includes visitors, contractors, and staff who are not employed by the same company but work on-site for some time.

What Is a Fire Safety Certificate in the U.K.?

The NEBOSH Certificate in Fire Safety is the globally pertinent fire safety credential that companies in the U.K. can use to comply with fire safety laws. This certification is vital to ensure that your employees are safe at work and that your business continues to function effectively. This safeguards employees and the workplace against harm if there is an emergency situation, such as a fire or flood which disrupts operations.

This certificate will allow you to demonstrate compliance with health and safety regulations while giving your company an edge over its competitors who do not have this certification.

The certification will comprise two unit assessments:

  • Unit FSC1. This Open Book Examination (OBE) will simulate a fictional construction site where the applicant will solve theoretical and practical problems. This scenario-based risk exercise will last approximately 4 hours within a 24-hour timeframe. A 45% score should be reached to pass.
  • Unit FSC2. This test will check the applicant’s ability to create a fire risk assessment for workplace hazards. It consists of a wide range of criteria sourced from the 1-6 elements of the FSC syllabus. The aim is to check whether the applicant meets the best practice standards found in the provisions on “Suitable and Sufficient” in the syllabus.

The applicant must pass each unit for the certification to be awarded.

What Are Some Tips and Best Practices to Maximize My Fire Safety Risk Assessment?

As a business owner or manager, you always want to get the most out of your investment in any software or tool. Here are some tips and best practices that can help you get the most out of your fire safety risk assessment checklist:

  1. Make sure you have a plan before beginning your assessment. This will help keep you on track with your work and ensure that you don't miss anything important during the process, like the checking of fire extinguishers or smoke detectors. It is helpful if you start with a quick walkthrough of the facility to familiarize yourself with the layout and identify potential hazards.
  2. Use checklists when possible instead of making notes by hand or typing them into a document – this will save time by reducing the number of steps necessary during each phase of the process (e.g., when using multiple tools that require different inputs). ) You can also refer back to it often so you don't miss anything.
  3. Consider using technology such as an app with cloud storage and artificial intelligence automation to answer questions about fire safety regulations. The app can also help with other related issues and allow you to focus on other aspects of your business that return higher revenues.
  4. Make sure you have a clear understanding of your entire company’s fire prevention mechanism. If there's no clear goal or objective behind the risk assessment, it can easily become confusing and overwhelming. Also, make sure that everyone who needs access is trained on proper fire safety procedures and protocols before conducting an inspection or making any changes based on what you find during one.
  5. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Your employees are likely experts in their fields, which means they can offer valuable insight when it comes to evaluating the risk-prone areas in their operations. Fellow team members also know the best ways to work in their space, so they may have insight into potential hazards that you hadn't considered.
  6. Keep things simple. Too many people try to go overboard with their risk assessments, so make sure yours stays focused on the essentials. While it may be a good idea to pool the collective expertise and skills of your employees to decide the best initiatives to follow, going overboard may result in inaccurate hazard detection and confusion.
  7. Classify the risks. When determining the timescale and action levels, your staff training should need to consider the type of risks according to a variety of qualifications. Some criteria to include would be: the necessity of ongoing monitoring; the need for additional controls to mitigate; the need for additional improved controls and investment in equipment; or the need for urgent attention because of consequences that constitute extreme harm.
  8. Learn from mistakes. Some of the most common failures in fire safety risk assessments involve improper risk assessments that provide wrong causation to the incidents, as well as using a generic assessment that doesn’t reflect the company’s site-specific workplace situations. That’s why it’s important to always learn from the previous assessment mistakes so inappropriate practices and poor collaboration among teams can be avoided.

What Is a Fire Safety Checklist?

A fire safety checklist is a document that allows you to assess the safety conditions of your workplace and prepare for all the necessary fire safety procedures needed to be installed. All companies that work with quality and safety management should have at least one fire safety checklist in place. This is to make sure that everyone knows what they're supposed to do in case of an emergency, such as how to use fire extinguishers or first aid kits.

It can also help the entire crew avoid situations where someone doesn't know how to handle an emergency situation properly. The most important thing about a fire safety checklist is that it's updated regularly so that all employees are aware of any changes. It should also contain a list of actions that need to be taken in the event of a fire or other emergency, which range from evacuating the building to contacting emergency services.

Having a fire safety checklist also helps the company’s safety specialist remember what needs to be done in case of an emergency, so they don’t waste time trying to figure out what they need to do next. This means that everyone can get out safely and there are no injuries or damage caused by trying to navigate through an unfamiliar building during an emergency situation.

You can find all kinds of quality fire safety checklists online or you can create your own using guidelines unique to your company to know how they should be structured. For example, if you have chemicals stored in your warehouse and you've never had them inspected by an expert, it's important for you to create a fire safety checklist so that you know what steps need to be taken if something goes wrong with those chemicals.

If you want to improve safety in your workplace, creating a fire safety checklist using a powerful but simple app is an easy way to start.

An emergency gathering station with smoke in the background
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Nicky Liedtke

Nicky Liedtke

Nicky is a content writer and researcher for Lumiform. With her content writing and copywriting experience, she creates high-quality content across a variety of relevant topics. She aims to promote workplace safety, sustainable operational excellence, and continuous improvement in her articles. She is passionate about communicating how technology can be used to have a positive impact on the environment and helping organizations reduce paper waste and achieve their business goals.

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