If you own a business or work for an office and have been appointed as the risk assessment or safety officer, you will need to perform a fire risk assessment. But what is a fire risk assessment? How do you perform one? Here are some tips that will get you started on preventing and dealing with fires in your workplace.
A fire risk assessment is performed in order to keep people safe. It’s done to prevent fires and also to help people get out if there is a fire. If you have more than five employees at your business, you need to keep a written copy of your fire risk assessment and associated safety plan on file. This is in everyone’s best interest, even if it seems like a hassle.
The first step in doing a fire safety assessment is to locate and identify any fire hazards in your building. Some of these are obvious. For example, a restaurant might have several fire hazards in the kitchen, especially if that restaurant has a deep fryer or gas stove. Industrial and manufacturing locations have obvious fire risks around any equipment that heats or melts material. But it’s not just businesses that have open flame or heating elements that are at risk for fire.
An office can have fire hazards all over the place in unexpected ways. Worn or frayed power cords are the biggest risk, because there are so many power cords in the average office. A spark from a worn cord can light on carpeting or upholstered furniture. Extension cords make this problem even worse, because they can lead to overloaded outlets which start electrical fires inside the walls of an office building. Combustible materials in offices, such as loose papers, add to the fire hazard since they can easily catch if a fire starts. Waste paper as well as working paper are part of this issue.
Another type of fire safety hazard is blocked exits. In the case of a fire, people need to be able to exit the building quickly and safely. If any furniture or equipment is blocking the exits or walkways, people could become trapped in a burning building. If your building has outside fire escapes, a fire risk assessment should also include inspecting those staircases. You have to be sure that those fire escapes are in good condition and are not blocked.
The second step in a fire risk assessment is identifying the people at risk. If you are an office or manufacturing site, without customers coming in, the people at risk at the employees. If you are a retail or food service establishment, your customers and your employees would both be at risk in the case of a fire.
Once you have found the risks in your building, you need to record these findings into a fire safety plan. Any risks you have found need to be evaluated and analyzed, then removed when possible or reduced when not possible. For example, you can reduce the risk of fire in an office by removing waste paper on a daily basis and storing it somewhere outside the building. A restaurant can reduce fire risk by keeping risky equipment like fires clean and free of debris which could catch.
Your fire safety plan should also include an evacuation plan, showing how those in the building should exit in the case of a fire or fire alarm. Fire exits need to be clearly marked and labeled, as well as kept clear and available for use at all times. In secure facilities, make sure that all exits can be opened from the inside without without keys or safety badges. Under normal circumstances, locking a door from both sides seems like necessary security, but in a fire someone could become trapped if they don’t have or can’t access their keys.
A good fire safety plan is worthless without proper training. All employees need to be briefed and trained on the contents of the fire safety plan. This will help to keep the fire hazards you identified and removed from your business from recurring. Training should also show employees how to deal with the risks that you reduced, so that they don’t move back into full-blown hazards.
For example, employees need to be trained on where to place equipment so that it does not block fire exits. They also need to be trained on the evacuation plan. If your business is open to customers, employees need to be trained on how to help customers safely exist the building without endangering themselves at the same time.
Other employees are crucial in the use of a fire safety plan. They need to know who to contact if they spot a fire hazard, such as a frayed wire or blocked walkway. They also need to know that it is crucial that they are vigilant in watching out for these hazards. No fire safety officer can possibly watch a whole building and notice every hazard; it’s up to the others working there to help.
If you aren’t sure if your fire risk assessment is good enough, you can ask for help from your local fire department. They can point out places where your plan seems deficient. However, they aren’t able to take the time to perform the risk assessment for you in the first place. That’s up to you as the safety officer.
A fire risk assessment is a vital part of running a business. A good fire risk assessment keeps both employees and customers safe in case of a fire emergency. Performing a fire risk assessment means identifying the fire risks. These can be both obvious, like cooking equipment or welding torches, or less obvious, like loose papers and discarded furniture in an office. It also means identifying who is at risk, such as employees or customers. Finally, a good fire risk assessment means figuring out how to deal with these hazards and prevent fires as well as helping people escape safely if a fire does occur.