Can anyone conduct a fire risk assessment?
William Cunningham January 7, 2019
It sounds easy doesn’t it? I mean it’s a risk assessment right?
The governments guidance on conducting a Fire risk assessment is as follows:
- Identify the fire hazards.
- Identify people at risk.
- Evaluate, remove or reduce the risks.
- Record your findings, prepare an emergency plan and provide training.
- Review and update the fire risk assessment regularly.
The problem with this guidance is that it doesn’t give any context. Regulation 3 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 states
“3.—(1) Every employer shall make a suitable and sufficient assessment of—
(a)the risks to the health and safety of his employees to which they are exposed whilst they are at work; and
(b)the risks to the health and safety of persons not in his employment arising out of or in connection with the conduct by him of his undertaking,”
The words in this section that are deceptively meaningful are “suitable and sufficient”. For a risk assessment to be suitable and sufficient the person conducting the assessment needs to be deemed competent.
What does competent mean? Good question. Competence again is defined within the same legislation under regulation “7.- (5) A person shall be regarded as competent where he has sufficient training and experience or knowledge and other qualities to enable him properly to assist in undertaking the measures referred to”
In order to answer the question can anyone conduct a Fire risk assessment ask these questions:
- Has the person you are thinking of undertaken any fire risk assessment training or fire safety management training?
- Does the person you are thinking of have experience of how fire behaves and experience of undertaking fire risk assessments?
- Does the person you are thinking of understand passive fire protection, Fire detection and alarm systems, Escape routes and construction, Travel distances, Safety signs, Compartmentation of properties and fire stoping?
This is not an exhaustive list of questions that should be asked but if the answer is no to any of these I would consider not asking that person to conduct the assessment.
What next? Well you have a couple of options.
1. You can place someone on a training course. However this will only address the training element of the competency issue. After this the person would need to gain experience and knowledge commensurate with the properties being assessed.
2. You could employ the services of a trained fire risk assessor. These assessors can provide evidence of training along with a C.V that will demonstrate knowledge and experience and also be a member of a professional body.
Below is a link to a story of what can happen when Risk assessors get it wrong. When you read it ask yourself this. Do you really want to take a chance?