Identifying the needs of people who may be at risk
Everyone is at risk in the event of a fire. But some people are more vulnerable than others. And your duty as a business owner is to identify those groups and individuals, and find ways to mitigate that risk.
The difficulty here is that people can be at risk for different reasons. The most obvious example would perhaps be understanding the support you need to give to a specific employee with a disability – whether a wheelchair user or someone who is visually impaired. But you also have to take into account a whole range of other people and scenarios. Visiting children, or customers who have babies. The elderly and infirm. Anyone who may be unfamiliar with the layout of your business – new employees, seasonal workers, head office visitors, volunteers. People who work in remote parts of the building. And even those who may not fully understand English, who may not recognise fire evacuation protocols.
Once you know where the main risks lie within your business, you have the power to address them.
Unfortunately, this is often the most difficult part of the process. It requires a comprehensive review of all risks, in which you will ask the question how the problem can be managed. In some cases, simple solutions will be found – the better storage of hazardous goods, the implementation of no smoking policies. But others will require more thought and detail, such as fire care plans for the vulnerable, and comprehensive maintenance schedules for any hazardous equipment.
Fire safety equipment
Having the right fire safety equipment is the next fire risk assessment consideration.
According to the Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order, businesses must have fire safety equipment on site. Including at least two Class A fire extinguishers on each floor of a building, some kind of fire warning system (this doesn’t have to be a fire alarm, but that’s usually the simplest option), emergency lighting, the right signage, and fire doors. All of this equipment must be easily accessible and regularly maintained.
Your team can be your greatest asset in the event of a fire.
So, it’s integral that you provide them with the right fire safety training. Most businesses will begin with the selection of a fire marshal. Many of the duties associated with the fire risk assessment with then be devolved upon the fire marshal. But it is also a mandatory requirement for all employees within a business – and anyone else who works on a site, even temporarily – to receive in-depth fire safety training. This should be recorded and updated in your fire safety logbook as part of your fire risk assessment.
Review and update
Fire risk assessments are only valuable if they are used regularly and kept up to date.
So, it’s important to review your data. In most instances, it’s a good idea to calendar a regular review date. But you should also consider reviewing your fire risk assessment if there are any changes within your business. This can include:
- Structural or layout changes to your building
- Changes to the function of your building
- The onboarding of new employees who may be at greater risk
- The introduction of hazardous equipment or materials
- A significant change to the number of people working onsite
- Or a fire event.
Which sectors need to conduct a fire risk assessment?
All UK businesses that have five or more employees must conduct a fire risk assessment. This includes businesses within the following building types:
- Offices and retail
- Hospitality businesses – including hotels and hostels
- Hospitals and care homes
- Places of worship
- Community halls and sports centres
- Factories and warehouses
- Schools and education facilities
- Tents and marquees