fire risk assessment
This might not initially seem like a very helpful response but the short answer is – it depends. Why? Because the legislation relating to conducting a fire risk assessment doesn’t actually state a precise frequency. What the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 does require though is that the fire risk assessment is kept up to date and redone if there are any kind of significant changes within the workplace. It’s regarded by many as a sensible and proportionate way to address fire safety. But concerns have been expressed about variations in how it’s being interpreted in practice. This recent news report from ITV Tyne Tees examined how regularly schools around the Teesside region were conducting fire risk assessments. Given the similarity in settings, you might consider that the variations were surprising. In some instances, new assessments were being completed every 2 years. In other instances, there were schools that hadn’t done one in 9 years and one nursery school hadn’t had a full fire risk assessment since 2007. Its next one was scheduled to take place in January 2018. As a result there have been calls for the regulations and guidance to become stricter and more prescriptive about when full fire risk assessments and reviews are carried out. In fairness, it’s not always an easy balance to strike. The spirit of the Fire Safety Order is to encourage ownership and an ongoing awareness of fire safety. If timescales became very prescriptive, some might argue it could have the effect of people ‘switching off’ from fire safety once the assessment’s done and not thinking about any changes that happen between the assessment or review dates.  But if, as the ITV report suggests, the Fire Safety Order’s application is patchier than it should be, it could be argued leaving it open to too much interpretation is also causing problems. So what approach should you be taking to make sure you’re doing your fire risk assessments frequently enough? Getting the fire risk assessment frequency right in your premises The pragmatic approach is generally accepted to be aiming to do a formal review once a year that checks whether your fire risk assessment is still highlighting and addressing all possible fire risks. On an ongoing basis, you must be alert to any changes made at your premises that may affect the risk level and therefore need assessing too. These changes can be very varied: if the purpose of the building has altered, for instance, or if there’s been a substantial change of layout you may well need to have a new fire risk assessment completed in that area. Likewise, a fire risk assessment needs to be carried out if there’s a significant change to the people using the premises, a major change of activity or the addition of new equipment. It’s also really important that if there’s any failure in your current fire safety arrangements you carry out an assessment immediately to determine what additional or alternative steps are needed to address the risk. It’s not a requirement to have fire risk assessments and reviews completed by a third party but you must ensure that whoever carries them out does have the necessary competence to conduct suitable and sufficient assessments. Even if you carry out your own annual review and it doesn’t raise any major issues, you may decide to use a third party to complete a new full fire risk assessment periodically: many businesses do this on a 3 year frequency but of course it depends on premises complexity and so forth. If you have any questions or would like some more specific guidance about carrying out fire risk assessments in your premises, please get in touch with Jackson Fire and Security.