The LWF Blog

Fire Safety Engineering for Design – Risk Assessment & Fire Engineering – Part 59

December 13, 2021 12:16 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 58, LWF looked at the assessment techniques used to assess fire risk. In Part 59, we begin to discuss Qualitative Risk Assessment.

Qualitative Risk Assessment can also be known as Qualitative Risk Analysis, it describes the process of the assessment of risk, using analytical methods but not usually numerical or statistical.

One example of a way that Qualitative Risk Assessment might be used is a fire engineer using their professional experience and subject knowledge to support a case of non-compliance with a specific standard recommendation and providing an explanation of how and why this instance does not involve elevated fire risk.

Qualitative Risk Assessment can be used to offer alternative design solutions when showing equivalence in terms of fire risk. It relies on the training and experience of the person undertaking the assessment and their ability to identify any relevant hazards, assess the likelihood of the hazard occurring and finally, assess if the resultant risk is of an acceptable level.

The qualitative risk process might involve the use of worksheets or question sheets that function as a checklist for all items that might affect the level of fire risk, for example:

  • Sources of ignition, combustible materials, flammable liquids and gases
  • Structural features, fire detection systems, fire alarm, means of escape, fire suppression
  • People at risk, fire safety management practices, maintenance schedules.

The likelihood of fire occurrence and any potential damage to life and property should be considered, along with any limiting factors.

Depending upon the system used by the person undertaking the assessment, the elements mentioned above and any others which are relevant may be evaluated by answers to questions with yes, no, acceptable, unacceptable responses. In addition, they may be scored within a matrix to provide additional information on the level of risk involved.

The assessment may support the use of relevant good industry practice or it may be more practical to use an alternative solution, in situations where the same level of safety or better can be achieved at a lower cost or in a way more suited to the design of the building.

In part 60 of LWF’s series on fire engineering, we will continue to discuss qualitative risk assessment and how it will be used to analyse and support design decisions. 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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