Risking it all
Despite the importance placed upon a fire risk assessment being the key element for the protection of a building, the fact is that many businesses and organisations continue to place themselves at risk by failing to understand the seriousness of not having a risk assessment that is adequate and sufficient to protect their business and employees.
Inadequate fire safety management
In April 2015, the Chief Fire Officers Association website showed 67 prosecutions relating to inadequate fire management. One example is the prosecution of a building owner, which resulted in a fine of £3,000 for an inadequate fire risk assessment together with more fines relating to what would have been highlighted if an adequate and sufficient risk assessment had been performed.
It is mandatory to undertake an adequate and sufficient fire risk assessment for commercial buildings, non-domestic and multi-occupancy premises. While the majority of premises do this, if the risk assessment is thought to have been carried out to an insufficient extent, the responsible person (duty holder) can face a fine or imprisonment.
Competence is important, in order to carry out such an important task as a fire risk assessment, the skills to do this must be a pre-requisite, but there are several factors that must come into play. Firstly the type of property, which by size, use, occupancy and contents will define the skills necessary to assess the risks. Secondly there is the need to understand the impact of relevant legislation and thirdly there is a requirement for a deep and practicable understanding of the causes and effects of fire, together with the impact on people in the building.
Finding out too late
Many businesses and organisations find out too late after they have suffered a fire and attempt to recover loss through an insurance claim that it is not enough merely to have good risk assessment skills or indeed a background in fire to equip someone to become a fire risk assessor and produce an adequate and sufficient of assessment of risk.
Sadly for businesses that have been affected by fire their risk assessments are found to be less than specific regarding the measures required for managing the risk from fire at an organisational level and many assessments do not fully incorporate a business or organisation’s risk tolerance level (i.e. their readiness to accept or bear risk) and as such are rarely translated into an effective fire management strategy.