The LWF Blog

Fire Safety for Facilities Management Personnel – Fire Risk Assessment – Part 78

December 29, 2020 1:33 pm

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 77, LWF looked at how hazard and risk have been defined and how this affects the fire risk assessment. In part 78, we continue to look at how definitions of hazard and risk in the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (FSO) and associated CLG guides have blurred the previously understood terms.

According to the FSO guidance, a hazard is ‘anything that has the potential to cause harm’ while risk is defined as ‘the chance of that harm occurring’.

If the definitions were to be inserted as given into the requirements, it can become confusing. For instance, instead of ‘risk of fire occurring’, the definition given would make it ‘the chance of harm occurring of a fire occurring’. Fairly obviously, however, the guidance requires that the likelihood of fire occurring is established, but with the term ‘risk’ being used and in a way that does not align with their own definition of the term, confusion could arise.

Further examples of anomalous use of the terms risk and hazard are frequently found upon reading the guidance.

Given the essential nature of the fire risk assessment laid out in the FSO, it is hoped that any future amendments will address the issue of anomalously defined hazard and risk to assist those charged with fire safety risk assessments in completing their duties in a satisfactory manner.

The definition of fire risk which should be used in this and other contexts remains the previously understood version – fire risk involves both the probability of fire and the consequences from fire. When assessing fire risk, the separate understanding of both issues is necessary to define and mitigate against fire risks.

The manufacturing process that regularly results in a fire, but the fire is one which causes no significant harm to occupants would not be high risk, but the issue of inadequate means of escape in a high-rise building could result in a low probability of fire occurring, but a high risk of harm to occupants should a fire start, and should therefore be classified as high risk.

It should also be borne in mind that measures to remedy the high probability of fire will be very different from measures to mitigate the consequences of fire.

In part 79, LWF will look into the concept of fire risk assessments. 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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