The LWF Blog

Fire Safety for Facilities Management Personnel – Fire Risk Assessment – Part 80

January 11, 2021 12:32 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 79, LWF explored the concept of fire risk assessments in terms of what is involved in completing an FRA. In part 80, we will continue to discuss what is involved in a fire risk assessment.

A fire risk assessment can be a highly subjective document. The person tasked with completing it must ‘assess’ and therefore, at least in some ways, quantify the fire risk. True quantification is only relevant to particular high-hazard industrial processes and similar circumstances, and the majority of those undertaking the task will not be addressing such issues.

Some published methods of fire risk assessment do include a form of quantification in terms of ascribing a value – 1, 2, 3, (or indeed, low, medium and high) to a given risk factor. Here, of course, is where the subjectivity becomes relevant. Added to the opinion of the assessor charged with undertaking the fire risk assessment is the subjective judgement of the method author, who may have provided formulae to give weighting for different risk factors.

The result can be anomalous, especially in cases where one risk/protection factor departs from the norm and it may be that its unacceptable status might not be obvious from the overall value for fire risk.

Points schemes can also skew the action plan results, with an emphasis on increasing the number of ‘safety points’ without proper consideration of the measures proposed. Such schemes can also fail to take into account the complex interactions between fire protection measures.

While it is tempting to utilise a system that attempts to simplify the process through the use of numbers, and results/actions based on those numbers, a safer and relatively-simple method is laid out in PAS 79 and the guidance contained within is designed to parallel the guidance given in BS 8800 on occupational health and safety risk assessment.

In part 81, LWF will look at the process of fire risk assessment and how it relates to BS 8800 which, while not a fire engineering or fire safety document, does address the method of risk assessment. 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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