The LWF Blog

Facilities Fire Risk Assessment | Considering outside risks

March 18, 2014 12:41 pm

Many people who are responsible for fire risk assessments are conscientious about all facets of risk within the facility. However, the risks that are imposed upon us from outside sources are often either not considered, or not addressed in a fire risk assessment. It is assumed that as the risk is out of our control, the compensatory action is also, but this is not the case.

Risks from outside sources can be permanent or temporary, and in either case, there are steps that can be taken to help mitigate that risk as part of your fire risk assessment.

Neighbouring buildings

Consider the neighbouring buildings to your facility. If the distance between the buildings is considerable, for example 40m, then you have good separation and are much less likely to be in danger from their premises. Where there is not good separation distance, it is important to consider the potential for spread of fire from their building to your own and yours to theirs.

Note the construction materials of the two buildings. Brick and masonry are the best construction materials for keeping fire in and avoiding fire spread. It may be that if either building is made from wood or other lightweight materials, fire could spread more easily.

Windows and doors on the facing walls also pose an additional risk, as these often allow fire to spread more easily.

Actions resulting from the Assessment

Once a risk has been raised as part of your assessment, it is important that appropriate action be taken to help minimise the risk. It may not be feasible for the neighbouring property to be changed, but you may be able to make physical changes to your own property that would protect it from the spread of fire.

Additionally, if you have highlighted that spread of fire from a neighbouring property to your own is a possibility; your facility must be evacuated should fire occur next door. Appropriate alarms and arrangements should be put in place to accomplish this.

Human Resources

All staff, whether permanent, temporary or contracted-in personnel should be background checked. Although cases of arson are rare, it is not uncommon for disgruntled ex-employees to set a fire, or indeed, for someone who has a history of arson to pose a risk to your facility.

Actions resulting from the Assessment

In addition to the risk that individuals pose to your facility and the necessity for background checking, it is essential that all permanent and temporary/contract personnel undergo basic fire training in order that they are aware of evacuation procedures etc. Basic fire training should form a part of any induction to the premises.

Waste and scrap materials

Unfortunately, waste material is often seen as fair game by those persons wishing to put a match to something, and it is commonplace to find burnt out skips etc. close to businesses. Containing the fire in a skip not immediately adjacent to the main building is not so dangerous; however, with that in mind, any areas where waste materials are collected should be noted, around the perimeter of the building.

Actions resulting from the Assessment

Consider the safe removal of all waste materials from the site after business hours. Be sure not to stack waste materials against any walls of the main building as an opportunistic arsonist may not realise that the lack of separation can endanger the building itself. Consider use of an incinerator on site if appropriate, or the provision of skips at a safer distance.

Additional possible risks

An effective fire risk assessment is one that takes into account all actual and potential risks and puts in place measures to eliminate or reduce the risk to an acceptable level. Consider temporary situations, such as contractors working on a new build on a neighbouring plot, then plan how best you can protect your facility from potential fire risk.

Visit your fire risk assessment regularly to record changes and to show the monitoring of potential risk situations.

LWF has been working with their clients for over 25 years to promote and provide fire safe design and planning. If you would like further information on how LWF and effective fire risk assessments could assist you, please contact Peter Gyere on 020 8668 8663.

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