Everything You Need To Know About A Fire Risk Assessment
2nd May 2019
Updated 7th October 2020.
This blog covers everything you need to know about Fire Risk Assessments, from why they’re required by all employers to how they should be completed.
How important is a Fire Risk Assessment?
Fire risk assessments are essential for ensuring your business is prepared for a fire and has all the necessary precautions in place. Without it, not only is the safety of your employees at risk, but so is your business itself. The repair costs for businesses after fires is so significant that it is estimated that somewhere between 60-80% of businesses never recover at all.
It is also law. The legal penalties for not having a completed fire risk assessment on your premises can be severe – up to two years in prison in some cases.
Does my building need a Fire Risk Assessment?
Yes. It is a legal requirement to have a Fire Risk Assessment carried out. However, if your building has fewer than five regular occupants then – under the law – the fire risk assessment doesn’t need to be written down. Of course, it is always best to have things in writing as this is the easiest way to communicate findings, ensure recommendations have been implemented and provide evidence of compliance if needed after a fire.
Can the assessment be done for free?
Yes. Businesses can opt for self-assessment, meaning the responsible and fully trained person can carry out and regularly review a fire risk assessment of the premises themselves.
You must keep a written record of your fire risk assessment if your business has 5 or more people.
Who needs to complete the assessment?
If you choose to complete the assessment yourself, it is the responsibility of the owner of the business or property to complete one.
The responsible person must possess the knowledge, experience and training in order to be able to recognise the fire risks in their workplace, and how to remove, reduce or mitigate them.
How much does it cost for a third-party company to do?
If you don’t have the time or expertise to carry out the fire risk assessment yourself, hiring a professional risk assessor is essential.
Most experienced and qualified auditors will carry out a fire risk assessment report for a fixed price. The cost will vary depending on the size of the business premises, so you could be quoted anything from £200 to £2,000 or more.
When engaging a fire risk assessment service, be sure to check they carry professional indemnity insurance.
How long does a fire risk assessment take to complete?
The time it takes to complete a fire risk assessment is completely dependent upon the size of the business premises and the nature of the business; for example, if your business involves working with combustible materials or flammable substances, it will take longer to review the premises.
Our own Fire Risk Assessments are divided into three areas, click here to find out more.
If you’re finding self-assessment laborious or you’re unsure exactly what needs documenting, it is generally a sign that you should seek help with your assessment.
When should a Fire Risk Assessment be reviewed?
Every 12 months or whenever any material changes have been made to the building, activities or occupation. A Fire Risk Assessment should be reviewed to see if recommendations have been actioned and to assess any new issues with the building, equipment or staff. A brand new Fire Risk Assessment should be carried out every five years.
How much detail is in a Fire Risk Assessment?
Whether a Fire Risk Assessment is written down or not, there should be two parts to the document. The first is the review itself, which will assess the fire safety of the premises in the light of various factors such as risk and management procedures. The second is a list of recommendations which should be implemented for the building to become fire safety compliant.
Who is responsible for carrying out a Fire Risk Assessment?
By law, every business or block of flats should have a Responsible Person for fire safety. It is this individual’s responsibility to make sure that a valid Fire Risk Assessment has been carried out. If you are a small business, it is usually the business owner who is the Responsible Person for the premises, unless another person is nominated. If you are a resident in a block of flats or tower block, then the Responsible Person is typically the landlord or managing agent (although they may also be a member of the residents’ association). The Responsible Person is accountable only for the common areas in a block of flats, such as corridors and stairwells. It is up to the residents themselves to make sure their own flat is fire safe. In a multi-occupancy commercial building, it is up to the Responsible Person from each company to co-operate with the other tenants to ensure there is a joined-up fire safety approach.
What happens if you don’t have a fire risk assessment for your building?
You could be prosecuted if you do not have a Fire Risk Assessment for your building or if the correct fire safety precautions have not been implemented. This may result in severe fines – or in cases of extreme negligence – a prison sentence.