The LWF Blog

Fire Safety Engineering for Design –Risk Assessment Pitfalls– Part 77

April 11, 2022 11:51 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 76, LWF looked at potential risk assessment pitfalls by considering the omission of risk to vulnerable occupants. In part 77, we continue to look at the impact of a risk assessment which does not consider the needs of vulnerable building occupants in a fire situation.

When undertaking a risk assessment on the fire precautions for a building, it is important to consider the profile of the building occupancy or likely occupancy. Even if the current or proposed occupancy is not vulnerable, it is likely that there is the potential for future occupants of the building to be vulnerable and so the fire precautions should reflect that possibility. For example, when a building is accessible for wheelchair users, the likelihood is that a wheelchair user will use the building at some point and when they do, they must be protected from fire along with all other occupants.

Since the Equality Act 2010, there is a duty to make reasonable adjustments to a building to accommodate a disabled person and to ensure they are not disadvantaged.

It would not be acceptable to argue that, for example, the likelihood of a wheelchair user being on the premises at the time a fire started would make the situation minimal risk. The potential for the situation to occur is possible and as such, it should be mitigated.

Even if the risk assessor were to argue that the risk would be sufficiently low as to make any necessary changes to the fire protection provision ‘grossly disproportionate’ this would remain unacceptable. The test of societal concern would certainly be failed.

In a nutshell, fire protection must be provided for the most vulnerable occupants in a building, including provision and arrangements for their safe evacuation from the premises in case of a fire, whether or not the building is intended for a vulnerable occupancy.

It is expected that the duty holder will take steps to ensure the risk from fire to a vulnerable occupant is comparable with that of any other occupant of the premises.

In part 78 of LWF’s series on fire engineering, we will begin to look at Fire Dynamics, which is the complex subject of fire behaviour. 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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