The LWF Blog

Fire Safety Engineering for Design – Risk Assessment Pitfalls – Part 70

March 7, 2022 12:17 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 69, LWF looked at commercial and financial interests when designing fire safe buildings and how losses can be minimised. In part 70, we discuss potential risk assessment pitfalls.

Risk assessment can be an opportunity to review and assess the fire protection provision for a given building or project in order to decide what fire safety measures are necessary. The measures are then implemented as a part of the design and construction process.

There are many circumstances where a fire engineered approach is the correct path to take, instead of simply following the prescriptive guidelines. It may be that a fire engineered approach can offer greater design freedom, can reduce risk or can lower costs.

However, this is not always the case and care should be taken when using risk assessment techniques not to use poor practices to justify a move from prescriptive practice where it is inadvisable to do so.

Poorly applied assessment techniques or the use of incorrect or skewed data can have a significant and potentially dangerous impact on the fire protection provision of a building and the safety of its occupants.

Some examples of poor practices in risk assessment are given in the CIBSE Guide E and we will review some of them in upcoming blogs.

Attempting to rely on low fire probability

Where a risk assessment indicates that a fire hazard is low frequency but has serious potential consequences, it is usually unacceptable to conclude that the lack of higher probability means no action is required. Where a low frequency, serious consequence fire risk exists, it should be assumed that the fire could happen and the risk must be assessed on that basis.

Low probability is not the same as negligible probability and the management controls that would need to be in place to ensure the possibility of occurrence was negligible would be potentially onerous and also impractical as they would have to be applied throughout the life of a premises by each occupant.

In part 71 of LWF’s series on fire engineering, we will continue to look at examples of poor practices in risk assessment and how to avoid them. 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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