Fire risk assessments are the means by which organisations identify the relative safety of their staff, their building(s) and their business. This means that they must be done properly – and a health and safety generalist is not necessarily the right person to carry them out.
Understanding fire risk, especially the level of risk, is a specialist task. Even a check list won’t help; it may ensure you check the basics, but it doesn’t help you to see the things that fall outside the obvious. Ticking a box identifies hazards, but doesn’t assess the risk.
Someone who is a Chartered Member of the Institute of Safety and Health (CMIOSH) might be considered to be very well qualified – but that doesn’t make them a specialist in fire risks. In fact, one of the directors of our company is CMIOSH and he’s the first to tell you that he wouldn’t go near a fire risk assessment!
Whatever qualifications someone has – the key to getting a good fire risk assessment is to employ someone who has fire safety and/or fire engineering experience. This means that they actually have the underpinning knowledge of things like flame chemistry and fire behaviour in a wide variety of situations, where specific substances that may be relatively safe in isolation are not when introduced into a normal working environment, not to mention human behaviour, structural engineering, fire systems and strategic management.
Even at a basic level you’ll need to be sure that you don’t end up in the same situation as one of our clients who have been on the receiving end of an enforcement notice because one of their premises fire risk assessments were considered not suitable and sufficient. I hasten to add that these were done before they became our client!
As the client owns a large number of premises, they not only need to make the necessary adjustments to avoid a fine (or worse) – but also have to redo the fire risk assessments for every one of their premises.
Check your fire risk assessments are done by an experienced professional!