While an insufficient fire safety risk assessment is dangerous for any premises, the consequences can be much worse for larger and more complex premises such as very large flats and commercial offices.
Naturally, these spaces should be assessed by someone who has adequate knowledge and experience when it comes to reviewing all potential fire related risks and recording accurately their findings in a report that can eventually inform a fire protection and management strategy.
What Is a Complex Building?
Obviously, buildings can vary massively in shape, size and layout. The fire assessment and strategy for a building must take its unique properties and dimensions into account, such as how entrances, rooms and passageways are spaced out, as well as where different rooms are situated in relation to potential areas where fires could start, such as kitchens, and also how near or far they are from escape routes and windows.
Additionally, the structure and fabric of the building must also be examined. Fire spreads at different rates depending on the material that is used within a building. Although buildings should be designed with this in mind and with a reasonable degree of fire resistance in the first place, those performing a fire risk assessment for flats or offices must understand the unique dangers and hazards that exist for the properties they are responsible for.
Complex premises will require a higher level of knowledge, understanding and experience on the part of the fire risk assessor. For such premises, there will be a need for the specific applied knowledge and skills of a specialist. This is why independent agencies are usually tasked with handling the fire risk assessments for large office blocks or large blocks of flats.
As well as knowledge and experience, they bring with them certifications and accreditations that can give building owners and occupiers peace of mind.
Admittedly, an in-depth knowledge of structural design, construction, engineering or architecture is not possible for many people, so this must be replaced by reasonable judgments and evaluations based on basic principles that relate to how fire spreads. Having regard to these aspects is always good practice.
Competency Criteria for Fire Risk Assessors of Complex Buildings
A fire risk assessor tasked with evaluating a complex building and producing a report should meet the following criteria.
- Ability to determine how fires can start and the how the spread of fire and products of combustion can impact various components of the building.
- Ability to identify weaknesses in building that could change the way a fire spreads
- An awareness of how construction materials behave in a fire
- An awareness of how different structural designs of buildings behave in a fire.
- An awareness of how fire spread can be inhibited by passive and active fire protection methods
- An awareness of how to identify that the subsequent use or alteration of the building can invalidate pre existing fire safety precautions and/or strategies.
In the case of simple premises, there may not be the need for an external agency or assessor to support the assessment process. This job may be taken by an employee of the occupier or the occupier themselves. The approach taken can be influenced by current guidance from the UK government, fire authorities, or those within your organisation who have experience handling such tasks.
Even when assessing simple premises however, you must ensure that the person responsible has a good level of knowledge and experience relating to the following:
- An understanding of relevant best practises for the type or premises they are responsible
- An awareness of current fire safety legislation and guidance
- An understanding of how a fire assessment report should be conducted and formatted so that it can be a practical document that informs management and mitigation strategies
Cooperating with Building Operators
A good level of cooperation with building operators is often needed to make sure that building fire risk assessments inform sensible management strategies and internal training and procedures for employees. It is essential that the building operator has a full understanding of the fire strategy so that the relevant processes can be created and people can be informed of what to do if a fire does occur.
Looking for a Fire Risk Assessor?
At UK-Fire Risk Assessments, we have a wealth of knowledge in our ranks when it comes to handling building fire risk assessments for both complex commercial spaces and residential buildings that house hundreds, if not thousands, of people.
From our experience, we know that each building should be approached differently based on its unique characteristics. However, we also know that the result of our inspections should always be the same — a comprehensive and accurate fire safety report that can be used to protect people’s lives as well as prevent damage to property.
If you’re looking for an assessor to help with a fire risk assessment for flats or offices in London, don’t hesitate to get in touch.