The LWF Blog

Fire Safety Engineering for Design –Risk Assessment Pitfalls– Part 76

April 25, 2022 11:30 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 75, LWF discussed how the use of incorrect or inappropriate references to good practice are contrary to risk assessment norms. In part 76, we continue to look at risk assessment pitfalls by considering the omission of risk to vulnerable occupants.

A person undertaking a risk assessment to ascertain fire risk should ensure they are fully apprised of the occupancy profile for the building in question.

An occupancy’s response to the fire alarm signal may vary depending upon an individual’s ability to respond and escape from the building to a place of safety outside. It may be that some building occupants will have physical or sensory impairments, not all of which might be classed as disabilities, but which may be situational or otherwise.

For example, small children, the elderly, bed-ridden persons, people with hearing or sight disabilities, people with restricted mobility (e.g. Wheelchair users) may all require assistance or additional information and management in order to safely evacuate a building in a fire situation.

An adequate risk assessment process should consider the risk to each type of occupant and conclude whether the existing/proposed risk reduction measures are sufficient or additional measures are required to address the level of risk.

It is likely that there is existing good practice which should be referred to and applied where possible. Where alternative solutions to that given in the industry good practice are put forward, the risk assessor should be able to demonstrate that the risk reduction measures will be equal to or exceed current good practice.

While the current occupancy of a building should be considered during a risk assessment, it is also important to consider future occupants and the potential for these to be vulnerable. For instance, if there is a possibility that wheelchair users may use the premises at some point in the future, the risk assessment should address how those occupants will be able to safely occupy and evacuate the building in a fire situation. It would not be sufficient for the building owner or manager to simply say that this would not be the case.

In part 77 of LWF’s series on fire engineering, we will continue to look at the impact of a risk assessment not considering the needs of vulnerable building 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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