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Fire Safety for Facilities Management Personnel – Fire Risk Assessment – Part 74

December 2, 2020 11:19 am

Lawrence Webster Forrest (LWF) is a specialist fire engineering and fire risk management consultancy whose aim is to give information on best practice in fire safety for facilities management personnel through this blog series. In part 73, LWF discussed passive fire protection before looking at pre-planning, including fire procedures and fire drills. In part 74, we begin to look at fire risk assessment and how it has come to be the basis on which fire precautions are implemented.

Since before the turn of the century, there has been a shift towards risk-proportionate fire precautions, from the traditional prescriptive approach. Essentially, it has been demonstrated that there is more than one means by which a fire safety objective can be met.

In the 1980s, building regulations in England and Wales were issued where the requirements were to fulfil a fire safety objective, rather than stating the way in which it should be fulfilled, as had previously been the case with prescriptive requirements. Guidance supporting the regulations clarified that a variation of ‘normal’ fire precautions may be possible, if it takes into account fire hazard and fire risk.

It wasn’t until 1997, when the Fire Precautions (Workplace) Regulations was implemented, that normality was redefined and fire precautions based on risk assessments were advocated. The requirement contained within these regulations was carried forward into the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (and equivalent legislation in Scotland and Northern Ireland) where the basis of general fire precautions is the necessity of a fire risk assessment.

The use of risk assessment as a basis for safety measures is not particular to fire safety. Health and Safety in general uses this approach in all areas, including in the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations.

While each area – fire safety and health and safety – require a risk assessment to be carried out in the workplace, it should be noted that the risk assessments are entirely separate and it would not be appropriate to combine them except in the case of very small workplaces.

While the requirement to carry out a fire risk assessment in the workplace has caused some consternation on the part of those charged with the task, the requirements of the Fire Safety Order mean that only a sufficiently senior person can be found to be responsible and that the process is relatively logical and analytical in content. A person with an understanding of the basic principles of fire safety can undertake a fire risk assessment in most basic workplace situations, although specialist services and guidance are available to those who find themselves overwhelmed or under-prepared.

In part 75, LWF will look at some of the terminology used when undertaking a fire risk assessment. In the meantime, if you have any queries about your own facilities or wish to discuss this blog series, please contact LWF on freephone 0800 410 1130.

Lawrence Webster Forrest is a fire engineering consultancy based in Surrey with over 25 years’ experience, which provides a wide range of consultancy services to professionals involved in the design, development and construction and operation of buildings.

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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