Completing a Risk Assessment

Introduction

Under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, the responsible person must carry out, or appoint a competent person to carry out a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment.  This must include the risks of fire to their employees, and others who may be affected by their work or business.

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If your organisation employs five or more people, your premises are licensed or an alterations notice is in force, you must record the significant findings of the assessment. It is good practice to record your significant findings in any case. For more information on fire safety legislation please refer to our page on the Fire Safety Order.

The level of competence required to complete a fire risk assessment depends on the size and complexity of the premises.

In the case of small and low risk businesses the responsible person or a “competent” employee may, after reading the HM government risk assessment guides (located at the bottom of this page), be capable of producing a suitable fire risk assessment.

Larger organisations may employ a fire safety specialist to carry out the fire risk assessment.  If you need help to identify a competent person or specialist to complete your fire risk assessment please refer to our page on competent fire risk assessors.

The Fire Service cannot carry out the fire risk assessment for you, but they can give you information and advice on appropriate measures to protect your premises from fire.

Note: If you do choose to get advice or a specialist to complete your fire risk assessment, you are still legally responsible for the fire safety in your premises and the fire risk assessment. 

The fire risk assessment is a process which analyses the risk of fire to relevant persons and identifies the general fire precautions required to mitigate those risks. The five steps to risk assessment are:

  • Step 1 – Identify the hazards and calculate the risks
  • Step 2 – Identify who is at risk (especially young persons and people who are vulnerable)
  • Step 3 – Identify the control measures required using a hierarchy of control
  • Step 4 – Record your significant findings, make an emergency plan and instruct your employees
  • Step 5 – Review on a regular basis

The responsible person must record the significant findings of the assessment where:

  1. He employs five or more persons
  2. A licence under an enactment is in force in relation to the premises 
  3. An alterations notice requiring this is in force in relation to the premises

Note: We strongly recommend you always record the significant findings of your fire risk assessment.

Think about how a fire could start on your premises.  You need to go around your premises, inside and out, and look for hazards. 

  • Fire starts when heat comes into contact with fuel (anything that burns) and oxygen in the air.  You need to keep heat and fuel apart.  For example, look for naked flames, heaters, electrical equipment, signs of smoking, matches and anything else that gets very hot or causes sparks.
  • Look carefully at kitchens where people work near naked flames, laundry rooms, and if applicable guest bedrooms where people may bring matches and candles or areas where they may smoke.
  • Think about what could burn and how quickly a fire could spread.  For example, laundry, curtains, furniture and cooking oil could all burn, just like the more obvious fuels such as petrol, paint, varnish and white spirit. 
  • Check outside for fuel too. For example, rubbish can burn. If this happens, could a fire spread to inside the property or affect the escape route? 
  • Think about how your property is built – for example, are the walls made of brick, hardboard or chipboard? Are there polystyrene tiles on the ceiling?

Everyone is at risk if there is a fire.  You need to think about yourself, your staff, contractors and visitors and anyone else who visits the premises. Some people are likely to be at more risk than others. 

For example, young children, the elderly or those with disabilities may be particularly vulnerable, as well as those who are not familiar with the layout of the building.

The law specifically mentions young people employed in the work place need to be accounted for in the risk assessment with specific attention placed on the following

  • The inexperience, lack of awareness of risks and immaturity of young persons
  • The fitting-out and layout of the premises
  • The nature, degree and duration of exposure to physical and chemical agents
  • The form, range, and use of work equipment and the way in which it is handled
  • The organisation of processes and activities
  • The extent of the safety training provided or to be provided to young persons
  • Risks from agents, processes and work listed in the Annex to Council Directive 94/33/EC and the Government advice on Fire Risk Assessment on the protection of young people.

Using what you have found in steps 1 and 2 you should be able to remove or reduce the hazards you have found. For example:

  • Think about whether a heat source, such as a hair dryer, could fall, be knocked or pushed into something that could burn.
  • Is your electrical equipment modern and working properly?
  • Now think about what you need to do if there is a fire on your premises

How will it be detected and how will you alert people on the premises?

  • Do you have an automatic fire detection system?
  • Are the detectors in the right place?
  • Is the system tested regularly?
  • Can you hear the alarm in each room?
  • Is the alarm loud enough to wake someone who is sleeping (if a sleeping risk)?

What action will you take to protect people on your premises and make sure everyone can find their way out in an emergency?

  • You need to make sure visitors, contractors, guests and any staff know what to do if there is a fire.
  • Will everyone on the premises be able to find their way out in an emergency?
  • Have you practiced a fire drill?
  • Do you have equipment to allow someone to put a small fire out and is it simple to use or would people need training?

It is a good idea to keep a written record of the significant findings from your risk assessment. This should include: 

  • Any fire hazards you have found and what you have done to reduce or remove them, and
  • Any more action you plan to take to improve fire safety arrangements and when you plan to do it.
  • Discuss and work with other responsible people
  • Prepare an emergency plan
  • Inform and instruct relevant people
  • Provide training

Your written record should be seen as a helpful, living document.  It’s not something that should be completed and then forgotten. 

  • You should review the assessment regularly and, if necessary, update it. 
  • Over time, the risks may change, particularly if you make any changes in the way you use your premises, or if you change the layout. 
  • If your review shows new or different risks, you must make a plan to deal with these to make sure everyone stays as safe as possible. 
  • It makes sense to keep a written record of the findings of your risk assessment and any new plan that you make.

When is my fire risk assessment out of date?

Fire risk assessment is a dynamic process and should happen continually although, there are a few triggers you can use to review your fire risk assessment.

  • Any changes to legislation
  • Any significant change of work practices 
  • Any significant change in staff levels 
  • Staff changes or a new group of relevant persons 
  • Any structural or material alteration to the premises 
  • Any near miss or fire
  • It is recommended that the assessment be reviewed at least annually

Small / Medium Businesses

Our ‘Fire Risk Assessment for Small / Medium Businesses’ is designed to assist businesses improve fire safety in their premises, but stress the person completing or reviewing the fire risk assessment must be competent. 

Note: If you choose to get advice or a specialist to complete your fire risk assessment, you are still legally responsible for the fire safety in your premises and the fire risk assessment.

Download the Fire Risk Assessment Small / Med Businesses (MS Word)

Download the  Fire Risk Assessment Small / Med Businesses (PDF)

Open Air Events (market stalls)

It is not suitable for units or stands where customers enter a structure (all tents and buildings or where fixed structures that will restrict the movement of people), for complex large scale structures or operations which would require a more in depth fire risk assessment.

Our ‘Fire Risk Assessment for Open Air Events’ is designed to be used by small food concession traders and market stall holders operating at outdoor events. It is suitable for most food concession stands where customers do not enter a structure.

If you need a more in depth fire risk assessment template, please refer to our fire risk assessment for small and medium size businesses above.

Download the Fire Risk Assessment for Open Air Events (MS Word)

Download the  Fire Risk Assessment for Open Air Events (PDF)

Note: Using our risk assessment template and guidance does not automatically demonstrate compliance with the law, and will not prejudice any enforcement action that may be taken by Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service as a result of any fire safety deficiencies found during an audit.

For further information on completing a fire risk assessment, please refer to the HM Government guide or guides that relate to the nature of your business on our Risk Assessment Guides page.