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Quality fire risk assessment: a means to an end, not the end Itself

It's as if the Great Fire of London had been a wake-up call, and a very rude one that.
The U.K. is known to have one of the most comprehensive fire legislations in the world. From laws considering smoke as a nuisance to free smoke alarms for every home, fire safety in the country is never out of the question. It's as if the Great Fire of London had been a wake-up call, and a very rude one that.

Has anything changed when it comes to the enforcement of fire safety laws? For starters, fires have been steadily declining, due in no small part to wetter weather. However, as long as fires pose a threat to life and property, there can be no rest for those in charge of people’s safety. In the end, only the quick action of a business or institution can prevent the terrible loss of lives and of property.

Ben Bradford of the Fire Industry Association has this to say on the matter:

Fire risk assessments are the cornerstone of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order, yet the value of a fire risk assessment, even when undertaken by a competent fire risk assessor, is largely dependent on the organisation’s ability to manage the outcomes.

As a legal requirement in the workplace, fire risk assessments usually involve a five-step process of identification, evaluation, action, recording, and review. The format may differ with each assessor, but the steps taken are relatively the same. The business or institution assessed must then follow the recommended measures to reduce fire hazards.

On a related note, Bradford emphasises two important documents that should form part of any fire risk management plan.

Many organisations have a policy in place setting out an overarching statement of intent (signed by the CEO) and firmly establishing the ‘what and why’. Less common, yet essential, is the Fire Risk Management Strategy; a document which defines an organisation’s fire risk management system and method of implementing the overarching policy and which firmly establishes the details of ‘how, when and who’.

Fire risk management extends beyond having the right fire-fighting equipment in the workplace. It can also include basic drills, first aid, and any other aspect that can mitigate the effects of a fire. Most, if not all, are included in a fire risk assessment program like the one from Help and Safety at Work.

As fire risk management evolves, a thorough fire safety risk assessment becomes increasingly important. There's currently no set rule as to how often you should carry one, but it should be updated every time you make changes to the workplace. This assessment only takes a look at renovations but also new hires, system upgrades, policy revisions, and even past fires.

(Source: "Fire Risk Management is Evolving," Fire Industry Association, September 12, 2014)

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