Have you carried out a fire risk assessment recently in your workplace?
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Sheila Pantry OBE
A fire risk assessment will help you determine the chances of a fire occurring and the dangers from fire that your workplace poses for the people who use it. The assessment method suggested shares the same approach as that used in general health and safety legislation and can be carried out either as part of a more general risk assessment or as a separate exercise.
Take time to prepare for your assessment and plan how you will go about your assessment.
A risk assessment is not a theoretical exercise. However, much work can be done on paper from the knowledge you, your employees or their representatives have of the workplace. A tour of the workplace will be needed to confirm, amend or add detail to your initial views.
For fire risk assessments there are five steps that you need to take:
- Step 1
- Identify potential fire hazards in the workplace.
- Step 2
- Decide who (e.g. employees, visitors) might be in danger, in the event of a fire, in the workplace or while trying to escape from it, and note their location.
- Step 3
- Evaluate the risks arising from the hazards and decide whether your existing fire precautions are adequate or whether more should be done to get rid of the hazard or to control the risks (e.g. by improving the fire precautions).
- Step 4
- Record your findings and details of the action you took as a result. Tell your employees about your findings.
- Step 5
- Keep the assessment under review and revise it when necessary.
Nobody knows as much about your business as you and the people who work with and for you. Try to use your own knowledge and experience and that of your colleagues and staff. Talk to your employees and listen to their concerns. The safety representative (if there is one) and your employees will have a valuable contribution to make. They can help you identify key issues and may already have practical suggestions for improvements.
Proper planning of your assessment, and any changes necessary because of it, includes consulting the workforce and their representatives. This can help ensure that any changes are introduced more easily and accepted more readily. However, remember that risk assessment is essentially a matter of applying informed common sense. You need to identify what could reasonably be expected to cause danger. Ignore the trivial and concentrate on significant hazards.
It is important that you carry out your fire risk assessment in a practical and systematic way. It must take the whole of the workplace into account, including outdoor locations and any rooms and areas which are rarely used. If your workplace is small you may be able to assess the workplace as a whole. In larger buildings, you will often find it helpful to divide the workplace into rooms or a series of assessment areas using natural boundaries, e.g. process areas, offices, stores, workshops as well as corridors, stairways and external routes.
If your workplace is in a building shared with other employers, you and all the occupiers will need to discuss the implications.
Time is precious and many people are really stretched in their jobs and find it difficult to keep ahead in current knowledge that they should have for their jobs. But help is at hand for those working in health, safety and fire and fire related industries.
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