Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Why fire risk assessment is important for your business

Fire poses a major threat to all businesses and should be of prime importance to any managing director or boss. The consequences of a fire can be far reaching and can even leave a business in the same state as the burnt out premises; ruined. If operating in a single premises the effects can be even more devastating, hence the importance of fire risk assessment procedures are an essential component of any health and safety protocol. For companies who house supplies and other integral business elements in their premises the effects of fire can be even more damaging. In terms of continuity of supply and relationships with buyers, the effects can sometimes never be recouped. An efficient assessment of the risk that fire may pose to your business should be regularly carried out to ensure not only the safety of your staff members, but also to protect your business. An employer's own conscience should force them to undertake a thorough fire risk assessment, although legal requirements for employers are extensive in ensuring staff safety. The process of fire risk assessment involves identifying the various sources of ignition that may be present in your business. Not only should an assessment identify the ignition points but also the levels of combustible materials in a workplace. Such materials include soft furnishings and elements of the structure such as a timber frame or desks. The purpose of a fire risk assessment is to minimise the potential for fire in your business premises. The risk assessment should involve the identification and if possible the elimination of hazards in the workplace. If these elements cannot be eliminated from the day to day uses of the business, fire risk assessment should advise ways in which the hazards can be dealt with and avoided. Usually safe working methods can be developed that put hazardous practises as far away from combustible materials and ignition sources as possible. This may mean that your risk assessment will take a few days to get a true understanding of the patterns of work in your business. Also, as part of the assessment, the people who work in your premises will be examined. This may include assessing the risk staff members, customers and other members of the public that may have access to your premises. The number of people present in the premises in the event of a fire will also be estimated by the assessment of visitor numbers over a few days. As a result of this information escape routes and fire safety protocol will be part of the risk assessment to ensure evacuation is carried out efficiently and effectively in the event of fire. As well a the means of escape, fire fighting apparatus and equipment will be assessed as well as the number of people who are able to operate this apparatus in an emergency. Considerations of age, health and agility in terms of the people present on the premises will also be part of the risk assessment. These factors are important especially when considering different working environments such as nurseries, factories or care homes. As a result action plans can vary immensely. The risk assessment report will ensure that there are sufficient staff members present to cope with a fire should it break out. Also the action plan should focus upon minimising the risk of fire in the first place, by understanding the causes of fire and elements involved, prevention should be more effective. Assessment will also include an appraisal of the current action plan and the working order of the various fire fighting equipment in a business premises. Fire is a risk that worries most employers, an assessment can inform bosses where they are with ensuring the safety of there staff and how much they need to do to increase this safety. As a legal requirement, following the recommendations of the report is a vital legislative requirement.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent article - I agree totally. All fires (other than a Bunsfield) start small yet 60% of businesses never recover from a 'small' fire that got big. Insurance companies will insist on fire extinguishers being fitted (75% of all fires are extinguished without the need for the fire brigade being called)hence the RRO states that the responsible person must train people to operate them - which of course forms part of your risk assessment etc

    Graham Ferris
    General Manager