The LWF Blog

Facilities Management | Preventing Fire through risk reduction

January 30, 2014 11:35 am

The effects of fire on a building, its occupants and owners can be catastrophic. Fire safety measures such as an effective fire alarm system, compartmentation, ventilation and sprinkler systems all help to warn of fire or prevent the spread of fire. However, fire prevention is the most valuable tool in fire safety armoury, after all, it is best not to have to deal with a fire at all.

Fire prevention can be achieved through a full fire risk assessment. While a fire risk assessment is a legal requirement, the reasoning behind its compulsory nature is obvious. When completed properly and kept up to date, it can help to avoid situations where fire can occur and highlight potentially problematic areas which need additional attention in order to be fire safe.

The five step process is fairly standardised across the UK and comprises;

 Identification of fire risks

 Identify who is at risk

 Evaluate, remove or reduce the risk

 Record your findings and make a training plan

 Revisit and revise regularly or when changes arise

An example of a process that should be examined using this process is the storage of combustible materials. The risk is identified, so the risk to any persons must be evaluated. For instance, in case of a fire in that area, would a person be able to find a safe means of escape?  If there is a suitable fire exit nearby, ensure that it is kept clear and unlocked. If not, establish a means of escape as a priority or arrange to move the combustible materials to a safer location. Another possible way to lower the risk to a person is to increase the amount of fire prevention/suppression in that area which may allow an increased time to egress. 

The recording of the risk and the actions taken is essential. Adequate training/information provision to those in the building, taking into account changes to the fire risk assessment is also a necessity.

What might initially be seen as a ‘pen-pushing’ exercise becomes an essential tool in the arsenal of fire protection in place within a facility, through thorough and regular review.  Additionally, all steps to prevent fire and protect life within the facility can be viewed through the fire risk assessment by those responsible for enforcing fire safety legislation.

Of course, the implications of not undergoing a fire risk assessment are particularly grim. Unanticipated and uncontrolled fire can cause loss of life, loss of businesses and leads to prosecution and in some cases, imprisonment. 

It is a legal requirement to nominate a ‘responsible person’ and for that person to be responsible for undertaking fire risk assessments, although in many industries including facilities management, the fire risk assessment is outsourced and undertaken professionally by qualified fire engineers.

Lawrence Webster Forrest is a Fire Engineering Consultancy established in 1986 with extensive experience in the facilities management sector. If you would like to know more about fire engineering or to arrange a fire risk assessment for your facility, please contact Peter Gyere on 020 8668 8663.

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