The LWF Blog

Fire Safety Engineering for Design – Risk Assessment Pitfalls – Part 75

April 19, 2022 11:22 am

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 74, LWF considered another risk assessment pitfall – the use of one piece of legislation to negate the requirements of another. In part 75, we discuss how the use of incorrect or inappropriate references to good practice are contrary to risk assessment norms.

In an attempt to justify a move away from relevant good practice, some people undertaking risk assessments inappropriately reference guidance that is not relevant to the situation. For instance, it may be that a duty holder undertaking a risk assessment in a hotel attempts to reference a standard relevant only to offices. The risks in the two types of building differ in various ways, but the most obvious and pertinent is that building occupants in a hotel may be asleep.

A second reason why such a reference would be inappropriate is that occupants of an office are usually employed to work in the building and as such are familiar with the building and layout. They will have fire safety and evacuation training. The hotel guests, by comparison may be disorientated and will almost certainly not be familiar with the building and layout.

It is important that the duty holder undertaking the risk assessment only references guidance and standards which are relevant to the type of building under assessment.

A second way in which incorrect reference to good practice can be an issue in a risk assessment is where reference is made to a design solution which has been used successfully, but where the context is different in a way that will affect the design safety.

For instance, an example given in CIBSE Guide E looks at a railway rolling stock company manufacturing vehicles for use in an underground railway system. The vehicles would be satisfactory if used on modern infrastructure, but when used on a rail system which has been in use for many years, the risk increases.

In these circumstances, it may be necessary to compensate for the increased risk level of operating on a much older infrastructure by reducing the fire risk associated with the rolling stock.

It is necessary for the whole picture to be established and taken into account in the risk assessment process.

In part 76 of LWF’s series on fire engineering, we will continue looking at risk assessment pitfalls with the omission of considering risk to vulnerable occupants. 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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