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Fire Safety for Facilities Management Personnel – Fire Risk Assessment – Part 77

December 21, 2020 11:38 am

Lawrence Webster Forrest (LWF) is a specialist fire engineering and fire risk management consultancy whose aim is to give information on best practice in fire safety for facilities management personnel through this blog series. In part 76, LWF laid out some of the definitions of fire hazards and fire risks given in industry publications. In part 77, we continue to look at how hazard and risk have been defined and how this affects the fire risk assessment.

The Scottish Executive published guidance on the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005, under which a fire safety risk assessment is required. The guides are given in plain language suitable for a lay user, and the definitions for hazard and risk given support the definitions in BS 4422 and PAS 79 (laid out in part 76).

Each of the Scottish Executive guides relates to fire safety in different types of occupancy and advises that a fire hazard is a ‘situation that can give rise to a fire’ and that a fire risk ‘has two components: the likelihood that a fire may occur; and the potential for a fire to cause death or injury, i.e., consequence’.

Prior to publication of the guides supporting the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 by Communities and Local Government (CLG), it seemed as if the fire safety profession and the relevant legislation and guidance were achieving a level of consistency regarding the definition of fire risk and fire hazard. However, the 12 guides, while using the terms hazard and risk frequently and stating how important it is that a clear understanding of the use of such terms is achieved, do not adhere to the previously established definitions.

A hazard, according to the FSO guidance, is ‘anything that has the potential to cause harm’ while risk is defined as ‘the chance of that harm occurring’. The guides also recommend that steps within a fire safety risk assessment include identifying people ‘at risk’, evaluating the ‘risk of a fire occurring’ and evaluating the ‘risk to people from fire’.

If the CLG definitions of risk are referred to when taking the steps mentioned, they fail to make sense. Equally, there is an issue with the potential extent of harm. If a risk existed which was quite likely to happen, but also likely to only result in minor damage, it would be classed as ‘high risk’ according to the CLG. If a situation were to be assessed using the previously given definitions of risk and hazard, it would clearly demonstrate the likelihood of the situation occurring and the extent of harm possible and this is the element which is missing from the CLG guides.

In part 78, LWF will continue to discuss the CLG guides for the Fire Safety Order. In the meantime, if you have any queries about your own facilities or wish to discuss this blog series, please contact LWF on freephone 0800 410 1130.

Lawrence Webster Forrest is a fire engineering consultancy based in Surrey with over 25 years’ experience, which provides a wide range of consultancy services to professionals involved in the design, development and construction and operation of buildings.

While care has been taken to ensure that information contained in LWF’s publications is true and correct at the time of publication, changes in circumstances after the time of publication may impact on the accuracy of this information.

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