Following any major fire, investigators will seek to establish whether the risks of such an incident occurring had been foreseen and if the measures taken to mitigate them were adequate.
An organisation’s ability to defend itself against claims and avoid regulatory action will be undermined if it does not have a written record of the steps it has taken to control fire risks.
The primary responsibility is to ensure the safety of all those who an organisation is responsible for. Effective fire risk assessments can have the secondary benefit of reducing the risk of damage occurring to property.
Here, we discuss how organisations can ensure fire safety actions are properly documented.
Fire risk assessments
Risk assessments are an essential part of managing fire risk and are a legal requirement for any organisation that employs five or more people.
While risk assessments should be tailored to an organisation’s individual circumstances, every risk assessment should:
- Identify potential hazards
- Identify who is at risk
- Prioritise risks and specify actions necessary to manage them
- Record any significant findings and actions taken
- Be regularly reviewed and updated whenever there is a significant change in circumstances (for example, changes to staffing levels, buildings, or the activities carried out in them)
What should a fire risk assessment look like?
There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all fire risk assessment. Depending on the organisation, it could take the form of a simple checklist, provided there is sufficient space to record details of any major hazards identified and actions taken to address them.
The following Home Office checklist template provides a useful starting point for creating a fire risk assessment. The Home Office has also created specific fire risk assessment guidance for different types of organisations.
Inspections and on-going maintenance
It is also important to document other measures taken to manage fire risk, such as:
- Servicing of fire extinguishers
- Maintenance/inspections of fire alarms, fire doors and other fire safety equipment
- Fire drills and fire warden training
- Inspections/servicing of electrical equipment and gas appliances
- Checks to ensure fire escape routes are clear
Retaining written evidence to show that fire risk is being managed proactively is important to avoid regulatory action. Carrying out fire drills, for instance, is a legal requirement. If an organisation fails to record details of its fire drills, it could be found in breach of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
A fire safety logbook is the best way to ensure that regular maintenance and inspections are documented.
A logbook should include space to record dates, times and brief details of regular fire safety checks.
It should also include any other useful information that will help the designated ‘responsible person’ for fire safety carry out their duties, such as contact details for the organisation’s fire wardens, its suppliers of fire safety equipment, and the local authority environmental health department.
Here is an example of a fire safety logbook.
How Zurich Risk Advisor aids the risk assessment process
We are keen to support customers in managing the fire risks they may face.
Zurich Risk Advisor is an easy-to-use digital tool that allows organisations to carry out their own risk assessments, using the ‘What If’ tool, which applies the same methodology and discipline as Zurich’s expert Risk Engineers.
Zurich Risk Advisor also includes a ‘Self Risk Assessment Tool’, in the form of a questionnaire, designed to support the risk assessment process, and which complements fire risk assessments under the Regulatory Reform Order.
The tool provides additional support and guidance to help safeguard organisations against the risk of fire, and guides users through a series of simple questions to individually grade each aspect of the risk. These individual gradings are then used to create an overall risk score, which gives an indication of how an underwriter would perceive that risk.
Zurich Risk Advisor offers clear examples of possible risk improvements, and allows users to see precisely how these improvements would affect each individual grading, as well as the overall risk quality.
It is available via phone, tablet and PC, and all platforms allow users to generate a report that can be shared with colleagues. To find out more, visit our Zurich Risk Advisor page.
For more information on construction fire, construction contracts and insurance considerations, please speak to your local Zurich contact.
You can also find out more and access helpful guides and insight with our new Fire Risk Resource.</strong