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Performing a fire safety risk assessment

Fire safety is crucial for any business with a physical building. Learn how to use fire safety risk assessments to keep your employees and customers safe

Ensuring proper fire safety in your business is an integral part of keeping employees safe. You want everyone coming to your office, warehouse, or factory to feel safe doing so. Fire safety risk assessments are vital to not only keep people safe, but also to comply with regulatory agencies like OSHA.

One crucial aspect of fire protection is learning how to perform fire safety risk assessments. That way, you’ll be able to identify potential fire sources and correct them before there is an incident.

Table of contents

1. What is a fire safety risk assessment?

2. Why is a fire risk assessment important?

3. What are the five steps of identifying fire safety hazards?

3.1. Step 1: Scan the entire company for fire hazards

3.2. Step 2: Monitor the people who are at risk

3.3. Step 3: Analyze current fire safety measures

3.4. Step 4: Install measures to protect the workplace and people

3.5. Step 5: Regularly update the inspections for improvement

4. What are the most common office and workplace fire safety hazards?

4.1. What is the biggest risk in fire safety?

5. Who is responsible for fire safety in the workplace?

7. Are fire risk assessments a legal requirement?

8. Is a fire safety plan a fire risk assessment?

9. What are the fire safety regulations/fire safety standards in the UK?

10. What is a fire safety certificate in the U.K.?

11. What are some fire safety tips and best practices?

12. What is a fire safety checklist?

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 remains safe, and to anticipate risks so that fire prevention efforts are easier.

This assessment will also help inspectors and quality managers in your company understand how prevalent fire hazards are, how to reduce or eliminate fire-related incidents and damage to property, and what steps are necessary to improve fire protection.

The concept of risk assessments can be traced as far back as 2400 years ago when Athenians used them in construction work. Over the centuries, such methods were employed again and again in various industries until a series of fires in Europe between 1960-1989 prompted the creation of the Fire Safety Act.

Fire safety assessments are usually carried out by professionals who have been trained in the field of fire safety. These experts can help you understand the cost of a fire breaking out. This will help you make decisions about what kind of insurance coverage and fire protection measures you need.

A fire safety risk audit can be conducted internally or externally, however, it should always be conducted by an expert in the field, whether they are an internal or external inspector. A qualified expert will ensure that all potential risks are identified and addressed appropriately.

Regular fire safety assessments allow your appraisers to:

  • Identify any potential hazards before a fire breaks out so that your employees can work without worrying about their well-being in the workplace.
  • Evaluate all possible risks by considering the probability (how likely something bad will happen), severity (how much damage would result), and duration (how long before something bad happens) of risk factors.
  • Ensure compliance with local workplace safety statutes and regulations.
  • identify areas where improvements could be made and design a fire prevention plan.

A large fire hose dripping on the ground

 

Main part

Why is a fire risk assessment important?

Fire safety risk assessments are important because they help you identify potential hazards and health risks related to fires and explosions in your building. 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 loss of business. Fire safety risk assessments prevent such damages.

They are also important because fire protection is often a requirement if your company works in quality or safety management. It is a prerequisite for insurance coverage.

Fire prevention through careful planning and thorough risk assessments is simpler and less time-consuming than determining the cause of a fire after the fact. Regular fire safety risk assessments help save money on damages, which usually result from negligence on the part of your employees.

What are the 5 steps of identifying fire safety hazards?

While the number of steps in a fire safety risk assessment can vary, there are five core steps that all businesses should follow. These steps ensure that any fire safety audit is comprehensive enough to benefit your business. It is a good idea to appoint someone in your business as a fire safety inspector.

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 as if performing a Gemba walk This means looking at working conditions, employee habits and behaviors, production equipment, and taking inventory of all potential fire hazards in the area. You should also look at how things are stored—for example, if there are any flammable materials in dangerous locations.

Flammable materials require special attention when conducting risk assessments because you need to prevent misuse by employees without proper training or supervision.

It is also necessary to inspect the workplace (or building) from different perspectives and think about what could be considered a hazard. Potential hazards range from electrical equipment and furnaces to less obvious things like cleaning products or combustible materials.

Be sure to include both internal and external factors when evaluating the premises. For example, if your company has multiple floors or buildings, each one needs to be assessed separately, because the likelihood of fire changes the higher up you are.

Note down any naked flames, heaters, textiles, air conditioning areas, commercial oxygen supplies, ducts, flues, and excessively long escape routes as potential fire hazards.

Step 2: Monitor the people who are at risk

One of the most important parts of any fire safety risk assessment is identifyingwho is most at risk should an accident happen.This will help you greatly when implementing preventive measures that consider everyone’s safety.

The best way to determine someone’s risk status is by talking to people who work in the office and asking them questions about their job. You should document their daily tasks, what equipment they are using, and if they have any concerns or fears related to fire safety. If you already uselean methods in your business strategy, you can get this information from data collected during company walk-throughs.

Some examples of helpful questions are:

  • How many people sleep on the premises?
  • Are there people who have impairments in sight, hearing, and mobility working or living 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 situated in the problem areas?

Once you have identified all of these risks, it’s time to see which factors 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 to outdated electrical wiring.

Categorize the risks you identify as low, medium, or high. Low risks are areas where there are no combustible materials and flammable substances nearby. Medium risk locations could be areas where there are combustible materials present, while high risk areas are ones where there is a high concentration of combustible and highly combustible materials that are prone to causing rapid spread of fire or smoke.

Step 3: Analyze current fire safety measures

This step requires management to assess which areas of fire safety are lacking in your company. This is done by analyzing relevant data (such as past near-miss events) and current safety procedures, which will help you implement fire protection and fire safety tips from experts.

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.

One potential measure is providing firefighting equipment. For example, if you’re working in an area where there is a risk of fire or explosion, fire extinguishers and fire alarms would be helpful. If there is a risk of falling objects, you might want to install guardrails or safety nets. If you notice that your workers are using extension cords as permanent fixtures because there aren’t enough outlets available, install additional outlets right away.

Step 5: Regularly update the inspections for improvement

It’s important to regularly schedule, update, and review fire safety inspections. This will help you keep track of what is and isn’t working well in your workplace and guarantees continuous improvement.You can also use frequent inspections to make sure everyone is on board with your fire safety measures,which helps your employees feel more engaged in their day-to-day jobs.

Regularly inspect all fire safety systems, equipment, and procedures to ensure they are working properly. How often you do so depends on the type of facility and the exact 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 totaled an estimated $14.8 billion, mostly due to productivity losses and medical expenditures.

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 chemical substances
  • Electrical appliances in the pantry, such as microwaves or coffee makers
  • 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. That’s why one of the most common fire safety tips is to minimize toxic gas exposure.

Toxic gasses are released when a fire starts in your building. These gasses include carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide, and nitrogen dioxide. They 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 specifies a “Responsible Person” or “Duty Holder” as the person in charge of fire risk assessments and other fire prevention protocols in the workplace. This person can be an employer, owner, or landlord, and is responsible for instituting good fire safety measures.

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 present on the premises at all times.

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. Designate a fire safety inspector and make sure your staff knows how to protect themselves from fires if one occurs.

If you’re an employee, you should also know what actions to take in case of a fire or other emergency. Where are the exits and fire extinguishers located? Is there an active safety protocol in place? Communicate the answers to these questions often so that each and every person in your workplace is on the same page when it comes to fire safety.

The 5 steps of fire safety

According to Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order (RR(FS)O) established in 2006, your business is legally required to have a fire risk assessment. The law was introduced to protect workers and make it mandatory for all employers to plan, manage, and monitor risks from fire, explosion, and other serious accidents. The law also requires employers to regularly inspect buildings, equipment, and systems that might present a risk to employees’ health and safety.

In order to comply with the law, your chosen fire safety inspector should be aware of their responsibilities as the safety officer/s. They should know what their legal obligations are and how they relate to the business. This way they are equipped to meet compliance requirements and help your business avoid penalties.

Authorities also recommend conducting fire risk assessments regularly so that if something happens,you will have defined steps in place. For example, inspect and maintain stairwells, reception areas, delivery points, and communal parts of the building, as these are crucial components of a fire evacuation plan.

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 serve 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 emergencies in your workplace. It outlines the steps you’ll need to take, including evacuation procedures, locating of emergency exits and equipment, and delegating responsibilities for certain tasks. It can also include information about how you will handle any injury or property damage resulting from the fire.

Fire safety plans involve taking stock of things like how much fuel is stored onsite, whether there are any electrical malfunctions, and whether workers have access to protective clothing. From there, you can figure out how best to address any risks that arise from those issues.

A fire safety risk assessment, on the other hand, is more comprehensive. It considers every aspect of your business — including employee training, building design, and product materials — determining how likely each aspect is to cause a fire
(or other hazards), and thinking about what could happen if one did occur.

Fire safety risk assessments help you identify problems before they happen so you can implement fire protection solutions that reduce the chance of accidents or injuries. In the event that a fire does occur, you would proceed with your fire safety plan.

What are the fire safety regulations/fire safety standards in the UK?

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 defines all fire safety regulations and standards in the U.K. It requires all occupants of a given premises to take any reasonable steps towards assessing and reducing fire risks. It also requires instituting adequate measures to protect people in case of fire.

Its provisions include the rule that occupants 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 your 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 a globally pertinent fire safety credential that companies in the U.K. can obtain as proof that they comply with fire safety laws. This certification is vital to ensure that your employees are safe at work and that your business can function effectively. Adhering to this standard safeguards employees and the workplace against harm in an emergency, such as a fire or flood which disrupts operations.

This certificate demonstrates compliance with health and safety regulations and gives your company an edge over 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 score of 45% is considered passing.
  • Unit FSC2. This test will check the applicant’s ability to create a fire risk assessment for their workplace. It consists of various 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 to be certified.

What are some fire safety tips and best practices?

As a business owner or manager, you always want to get the most out of any tool you use. Here is how you can 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 checking your fire extinguishers or smoke detectors. 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 to save time. You can refer back to your checklists often so you don’t miss anything.
  3. Consider using technology such as artificial intelligence automation to answer questions about fire safety regulations. Fire inspection apps can also help with other related issues and allow you to focus on revenue-generating aspects of your business.
  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.
  5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Your employees know their jobs well, which means they can offer valuable insight when it comes to identifying areas which pose safety risks. 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 go overboard with their risk assessments, so make sure yours stays focused on the essentials. While pooling together employee expertise can be a good way to decide the best initiatives to follow, streamline your focus to avoid confusion.
  7. Classify the risks. When creating a fire safety risk assessment, your staff training should classify 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 equipment
    • the need for urgent attention because consequences would constitute extreme harm
  8. Learn from mistakes. Some of the most common failures in fire safety risk assessments are due to risk assessments that identify the wrong root cause, as well as performing a generic assessment that doesn’t reflect the specific risks present in your company. Always reflect on 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 makes identifying fire hazards and preparing solutions easier. All companies that work with quality and safety management should have at least one fire safety checklist in place. These checklists make sure everyone knows what they’re supposed to do in case of an emergency, and how to use firefighting equipment such as fire extinguishers or first aid kits.

It can also help avoid situations where someone doesn’t know how to handle an emergency properly. The most important thing about a fire safety checklist is that you update it regularly so that all employees are aware of any changes. It should 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 remember next steps. That way, everyone can get out safely and there are no injuries or damage due to being unprepared.

You can find all kinds of quality fire safety checklists online or you can create one specific to your company. Company-specific factors are things like inspecting any chemicals stored in your warehouse or evaluating the ventilation systems on each floor of your building.

Working towards comprehensive fire protection by creating a fire safety checklist is easy with Lumiform. You can simply download a pre-existing fire safety inspection template and/or modify it to include potential hazards specific to your business. And you can conduct inspections regularly in minutes on your smartphone.

An emergency gathering station with smoke in the background

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