The LWF Blog

Fire Safety Engineering for Design – Risk Assessment & Fire Engineering – Part 56

November 22, 2021 12:14 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 55, LWF looked at hazard, risk and risk assessment and how they are defined. In part 56, we will look at how to define the scope of a risk assessment.

Defining the Scope of a Risk Assessment

The application of risk assessment to fire engineered designs requires definition of scope. This means, in essence, that it must be clear what the purpose of the risk assessment is and what is being assessed.

In some instances, where the risk assessment relates only to the satisfaction of fire safety legislation, it will be straightforward. In others, the scope may require more careful definition. For example, where the risk assessment is intended to support the acceptability of a novel or complex building design. Another case where the scope may be complex is when fire risks to assets or business continuity are being assessed.

To assist in defining the scope, it can be useful to ask the following questions:

What is the risk of?

Examples of relevant answers might be danger of fatalities or injuries, asset or business loss, damage to reputation, interruption to supply chains.

Who or what might be affected by the risk?

Answers may be employees, visitors, members of the public, firefighters, specific assets or the premises.

What is the risk from?

The nature of the risk, for example, accidental ignition, potential fire load distribution issues, construction materials, arson, occupancy, process hazards, storage of flammable product.

In defining the scope, it is possible to make a more informed decision about the most appropriate technique(s) to employ for undertaking the risk assessment.

Defining the Acceptability Criteria of a Risk Assessment

The phrase ‘acceptable risk’ is often heard in relation to risk assessment. But what is an acceptable level of risk from fire?

In an ideal world, there would be zero risk from fire, but that is impossible and in making it possible, it would restrict activity to such an extent that the business or organisation may not be able to function.

In reality, nobody expects zero risk, but it is important that fire risk is acceptable to those who are responsible for controlling it.


In part 57 of LWF’s series on fire engineering, we will continue discussing acceptability criteria.  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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