If you are the responsible person in a business, the law requires that you carry out a fire risk assessment and review it regularly. If you employ five or more people you must also keep a written record of your assessment and any actions taken as a result. It is critical that you do this, from more than one standpoint. The first is obviously the safety of everyone on your premises, but the second is because if you don’t, you could finish up in jail! And it has happened.
There are a lot of things to consider when undertaking a fire risk assessment which is why a lot of business owners prefer to leave it to us at UK-Fire Risk Assessments to do it for them.
Under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, one of the requirements is that most commercial premises must have a fire alarm system installed and in working order. The only exceptions are small premises which do not contain high-risk substances and where it would be easy to see a fire starting and a shout of “fire” would be heard by everybody. All other premises should have a fire alarm system.
The fire alarm system must be maintained in good working order and be tested regularly. The person undertaking the testing, and any maintenance, must be competent, and in some cases certified and approved to industry standards.
Testing is usually carried out by the responsible person in a business, but if you have very large premises or multiple sites you may wish to have your fire alarm installation and servicing company do it for you. Tests should be carried out weekly and each test should involve activating at least one fire alarm call point and checking that the alarm sounds and that the control panel receives the signal. You should test a different call point every week and keep a record in your fire logbook. If there are any issues you should call your fire alarm servicing company immediately.
As with anything else, fire alarm systems can go wrong and some common issues include the fact that there is no power going to the control panel, the panel shows a fault, the panel makes a noise, or the alarm goes off but there is no fire. If something like this happens it is usually a result of lack of maintenance, so the servicing company should be called immediately and should respond within 24 hours, or within four hours if you have disabled the system because the alarm is going off.
Apart from the legal requirements, servicing your fire alarms is necessary in order to prevent false alarms. False alarms are actually a huge problem. According to the Home Office, of a total of 555,759 incidents attended by Fire and Rescue Services in England in the year to December 2019, no less than 41% of them were to fire false alarms (https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/884271/fire-and-rescue-incident-dec19-hosb1120.pdf).
Fire alarms have to be compatible with BS 5839 which advises that fire alarms be inspected every six months for smaller installations. This is increased to every three months for larger premises with multiple alarms and complex systems.
Apart from fire alarm systems, when you carry out a fire risk assessment there are several other things to consider. These are:
- emergency routes and exits
- fire-fighting equipment
- the removal or safe storage of dangerous substances
- an emergency fire evacuation plan
- the needs of vulnerable people – for example the elderly, young children, or those with disabilities
- providing information to employees and other people on the premises
- staff fire safety training
You should also carry out a fire risk assessment whenever anything changes. For example, if you own a factory you may decide to change all your machinery around or install new machinery in order to improve manufacturing processes. This could result in you unintentionally blocking what had previously been an escape route, so it needs to be taken into consideration.
Certainly, undertaking a fire risk assessment can be a complicated business if you have not had proper training, which most businessmen have not. This is why many people use our fire risk assessment services at UK-Fire Risk Assessments because it not only saves them a considerable amount of time, but they also know that they will be compliant with the law.