As I write this, Grenfell Tower is still smouldering and there are many people still to be accounted for. As tragic as events are, it’s a timely reminder to anyone in control of a building to review their own fire safety management arrangements.
It’s been over 10 years since the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order became law, yet still many Responsible Persons don’t even know they have that position, let alone what is required of them.
With few exceptions, the Responsible Person is generally the employer (if a workplace), otherwise it is usually the building Owner.
The Responsible Person is where the buck stops. They must have competent assistance to ensure their workplace, or other building they control (or otherwise have responsibility for), is safe from Fire Risks.
We have recently seen Fire Risk Assessments that were given to a business owner, which had they actually been on paper, weren’t worth the paper they were recorded on. The employer had, to use their own words ‘spent good money’ on worthless documents.
Fire Risk Assessment
To treat a Fire Risk Assessment as a tick box exercise is essentially a criminal act. The employer commissioning the work requires the information necessary to ensure the safety of any persons in that property; such a tick chart does not anywhere approach that level of information.
So what if there is Paper, Cardboard, Furniture, Clothing, Flooring and Wall Covering in the premises? Are we to expect all buildings to be sterile concrete boxes, inhabited by naked people?
So that’s the Fuel aspect of the assessment, what about the protective measures?
Extinguishers, Emergency Lighting, Audible Alarms, Fire Doors et al, again such a list is valueless.
Are there the right type of extinguishers in the right places, is the Emergency Lighting sufficient and again is it in the right places?
What type of alarms are there, are they loud enough, can they be confused with other sounders? So there are fire doors, but what rating and are they in the right places to contain a fire?
Why is ‘Training’ and ‘Fire Marshals’ listed as ‘unknown’? In fact the building is managed office space with no on-site staff; so it wouldn’t have taken but a few moments to discover this fact and include it in the report.
The (in)competence of the ‘Consultant’ fire risk assessor who completed this document is further highlighted by a plethora of other mundane comments such as “The front gate needs repairing as in(sic) can not be opened easily an(sic) it is the route to the fire assembly point”.
Yet the front gate is not an impediment to the normal pedestrian traffic entering and exiting the building. on a daily basis.
It might need a little bit of lubrication oil on the hinges, but can it really be the significant hazard the Assessor claimed it to be?
If you have a Fire Risk Assessment of this nature, it’s worthless and a danger to you, your employees and your business.
Fixed Price Assessments?
There are companies offering fixed price Fire Risk Assessments, or even claiming ‘We will not be beaten on price!’.
While fixed prices are reasonable enough for very simple premises, how may workplaces are really that simple?
Once the fixed price regime crosses over to Schools, Community Centres and other premises of increasing complexity, the competence of the Assessor must be thoroughly questioned.
When such companies are in a race to the bottom on prices, are these really the people that should be giving you advice on the safety of your business and the lives of the people that work there?
When competing on price, with the need to rapidly progress from one job to another in order to actually make a living wage, will these assessors actually have the time to look properly, to find the problem areas such as ill-fitting fire doors or inadequate fire stopping, perhaps where you recently had some new IT cabling installed?
Please, look carefully at your Fire Risk Assessment and see if it truly meets your needs. Does it accurately reflect the condition of your premises?
Does it comprise of worthless tick-boxes or is it a worthwhile document, highlighting the Good, the Bad and the Ugly, with sensible recommendations for improvements in a practical time-scale?
Just because you have paid somebody to complete a Fire Risk Assessment for you; the law says it is your responsibility to ensure it is sufficient for your needs.
As the Responsible Person, the Buck Stops with YOU!