The LWF Blog

Fire Safety Engineering for Design – Risk Assessment & Fire Engineering – Part 55

November 15, 2021 12:05 pm

LWF’s Fire Safety Engineering blog series is written for Architects, building designers and others in the construction industry to highlight and promote discussion on all topics around fire engineering. In part 54, LWF began to discuss the risk assessment process. In part 55, we look at hazard, risk and risk assessment and how they are defined.

The words hazard, risk and risk assessment are used in various scenarios, with sometimes widely varying definitions. It is important to ascertain exactly what each term refers to before the risk assessment process begins.

Hazard – that which has the potential to cause harm or loss.

Risk – a combination of the likelihood of a specific hazard being realised and the consequence of that realisation.

Risk Assessment – the process by which hazards are identified, the likelihood of realisation is estimated and the potential severity of harm or loss incurred is assessed. It may also include a judgement concerning the significance of the results.

As an example, a hazard is found in the form of an unstopped drill-hole in a fire-resistant wall which is an element of a fire-stopping compartment. The risk is that a fire will start inside that compartment and spread to the next (or vice versa), negating the fire protection of the passive fire protection provided and might compromise the safety of building occupants while trying to evacuate the building.

The risk assessment would estimate the potential losses in terms of injury (harm), damage to property (loss) and also, in terms of negligence in the duty of care required from the organisation and the responsible person.

The risk assessment process should therefore attempt to identify all reasonably foreseeable fire risks and consider their impact. It may not be necessary to carry out a detailed assessment of every fire risk identified but each should be recorded in the fire risk assessment, along with either actions required or the fact that key stakeholders found the level of risk to be acceptable without further action.

It should be noted that because a fire risk was not foreseen, does not automatically mean it was not ‘reasonably foreseeable’. A lack of knowledge in this area is not a defence as the persons carrying out the hazard analysis should be suitably competent and knowledgeable in the area of fire risk and fire safety.

The aim of a risk assessment is to reduce the risk from a fire hazard to an acceptable level, it is impossible to reduce the risk from fire to zero.

In part 56 of LWF’s series on fire engineering, we will look at how to define the scope of a risk assessment. In the meantime, if you have any questions about this blog, or wish to discuss your own project with one of our fire engineers, please contact us.

Lawrence Webster Forrest has been working with their clients for over 25 years to produce innovative and exciting building projects. If you would like further information on how LWF and fire strategies could assist you, please contact the LWF office on 0800 410 1130.

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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