A fire in any office, shop or flat can be distressing, no matter how small. It has the potential to damage goods, resources and technology, as well as require operations to stop resulting in revenue loss. In the worst cases, it can also harm employees, tenants and customers, causing both physical and emotional damage.
We explore why fire risk assessments are not just important for large commercial enterprises, but also for small businesses and single properties that landlords rent out to their tenants.
Knowing How to Identify Fire Hazards
Knowing how fires can start is a paramount when conducting an office fire safety assessment or preparing a report for a property that you rent out. Thinking about how a fire could start will help you to determine the level of risk that exists in any given space.
Each premises will present different hazards, such as heaters, lights, naked flames, electrical equipment, cigarettes, or matches. The job of the fire risk assessor is to know what these are and identify them accurately so that future fire mitigation and management strategies can be created.
Identify People at Risk
People are a very important component in any fire risk assessment and a diligent report cannot be created without an understanding of how fires impact people within your premises, as well as people nearby. Some people will simply be more at risk than others. For instance, people who are disabled or elderly, whether they be your tenants or employees, will not be able to move as quickly as others and therefore will be more exposed to the dangers of a potential fire.
It is important that you also consider the people in neighbouring structures when you perform your report, such as the office next door, or the block of flats next to the property you own.
Create a Comprehensive and Practical Report
If you are a business with less than five members of staff, you may not be required to create and hold a written record of your fire risk assessment report. However, it is always advised for all businesses to do so anyway.
If you are working with an independent agency to help you with this task, they should be able to deliver what’s needed in terms of the reports, scopes and takeaways. However, if you are performing this yourself you will need to make sure it includes the following:
- Identification of fire risks throughout the premises
- Escape routes that can be used by employees and tenants
- Fire fighting equipment such as fire extinguishers
- Fire detection equipment such as smoke and heat alarms
Once created, you must review and update your report regularly. Additional risks may crop up over time as offices and properties change and this must be reflected in your report.
Putting Your Report into Action
Simply creating a plan isn’t enough. The purpose of the report in the first place is to give you a framework for building sufficient management and mitigation strategies so you must use it as a basis for this, while training staff about how to understand risks and how they should behave if a fire does break out one day.
Don’t Invalidate Your Insurance Claims
Making sure you perform a regular fire safety assessment is also vital for ensuring you don’t invalidate your insurance claims when you contact your insurance provider after a breakout. In these situations, they will investigate the situation to discover any possible grounds to reduce or prevent the payout.
It is only through enforcing strong fire safety practises in your workplace that you can guarantee you get the compensation you need when an unfortunate incident occurs.
Doing It Yourself vs. Getting Help
If your business or organisation is small enough and you think your potential risks aren’t complex, it is possible to perform your own fire safety risk assessment yourself. You can find guides and advice from fire and safety organisations, as well as from the government detailing what is needed for a sufficient office fire safety assessment to be created.
Having said this, for larger businesses or businesses located within complex buildings, it is prudent to contact a professional who is highly competent and trustworthy. Qualified specialists will be able to see what others cannot and in addition to saving your internal team the time and stress of performing the assessment themselves, can give you peace of mind.
Do I Need to Do This?
Whether you run a shop, office, restaurant, warehouse, rental flat or any other type of commercial or residential premises that you are responsible for, you must ensure that an assessment is performed so that you can protect the people who are effectively in your care when it comes to fire safety.
If you need help with an office or landlord fire risk assessment or just want further advice on what’s needed, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.