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Fire risk assessment

A fire risk assessment is an organised and methodical look at your premises.

An assessment must be carried out regularly to review the likelihood that a fire could start and cause harm to those in and around the premises.

The aims of the fire risk assessment are to:

  • identify the fire hazards.
  • reduce the risk of those hazards causing harm to as low as reasonably practicable.
  • decide what physical fire precautions and management arrangements are necessary to ensure the safety of people in your building if a fire should start.

Five-step fire risk assessment

Your fire risk assessment should demonstrate that, as far as is reasonable, you have considered the needs of all relevant people, including disabled people.

Step 1 - Identify the hazards within your premises

You need to identify: 

  • sources of ignition such as naked flames, heaters or some commercial processes
  • sources of fuel such as built-up waste, display materials, textiles or overstocked products
  • sources of oxygen such as air conditioning or medicinal or commercial oxygen supplies.

Step 2 - Identify people at risk

You will need to identify those people who may be especially at risk such as: 

  • people working near to fire dangers
  • people working alone or in isolated areas (such as in roof spaces or storerooms)
  • children or parents with babies; and the elderly or infirm and people who are disabled.

Step 3 - Evaluate, remove, reduce and protect from risk

Evaluate the level of risk in your premises. You should remove or reduce any fire hazards where possible and reduce any risks you have identified. For example, you should: 

  • replace highly flammable materials with less flammable ones;
  • make sure you separate flammable materials from sources of ignition; and
  • have a safe-smoking policy.

When you have reduced the risk as far as possible, you must assess any risk that is left and decide whether there are any further measures you need to take to make sure you provide a reasonable level of fire safety...

Step 4 - Record, plan, instruct, inform and train

You should record, plan, instruct, inform and train. You will need to record the dangers and people you have identified as especially at risk in step 1 and step 2. You should also record what you did about it in step 3. A simple plan can help you achieve this.

You will also need to make an emergency plan, tailored to your premises. It should include the action that you need to take in a fire in your premises or any premises nearby. 

You will need to give staff, and occasionally others, such as hotel guests or volunteer stewards, instructions. All employees should receive enough information and training about the risks in the premises. Some, such as fire marshals, will need more thorough training.

Step 5 - Review

You should make sure your fire-risk assessment is up to date. You will need to re-examine your fire-risk assessment if you suspect it is no longer valid, such as after a near miss or a change in internal layout and every time there is a significant change to the level of risk in your premises. This could include: 

  • if you store more materials which can catch fire easily
  • a new night shift starting
  • a change in the type or number of people using your premises.

What you need to do

The law places a general duty upon the responsible person to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the safety of employees, a general duty, in relation to non-employees to take such fire precautions as may reasonably be required in the circumstances to ensure that premises are safe and a duty to carry out a fire safety risk assessment.

The responsible person must carry out, or have a suitably qualified person carry out, a fire safety risk assessment and implement and maintain a fire management plan.

The significant findings of the fire risk assessment, the actions to be taken as a result of the assessment and details of anyone especially at risk must be recorded, if your organisation:

  • employs five or more people
  • your premises are licensed
  • an alterations notice requiring it is in force.

You will probably find it helpful to keep a record of the significant findings of your fire risk assessment even if you are not required to do so.

Further information on fire risk assessment and guides for each type of premises.

A guide to choosing a competent fire risk assessor

You may feel more comfortable employing a fire safety specialist to help you. 

You can choose to appoint a 'competent' risk assessor to carry out a fire risk assessment on your behalf. However, you will still be responsible in law for meeting the requirements of the order.

The law says that your fire risk assessment must be suitable and sufficient and that it must be carried out by a competent person(s).  

A competent person is defined as someone with enough training and experience or knowledge and other qualities to be able to implement these measures properly.  

This person may be you, however, if either before or after reading the guides you feel that you do not have an appropriate knowledge or understanding of fire safety and the risk to people from fire to comply effectively with your legal duties, you will need to appoint a specialist to carry out the risk assessment for you. 

Choosing a competent fire risk assessor (pdf format, 567Kb).