Don't be duped into wasting thousands get a fire risk assessment
This year we decided to carry out our own fire safety survey of businesses around Cardiff. We did this by offering all kinds of local businesses a free fire safety audit of their premises.
We contacted all kinds of businesses including, Shops, Bars, Offices, Doctors' surgeries, Garages, B&Bs, Student accommodation, hair salons, nursing homes, and some industrial units.
Fire safety audit process:
• Meeting with the customer on-site to assess their current fire safety procedures
• A brief assessment of the site and the systems in place
• Run through the fire safety questionnaire with the customer
• Provide the client with their fire safety score
• Discuss areas in need of improvement
Shocking results but no surprise
We do a lot of fire risk assessments so we already had a good idea of what the potential results would be of our survey. As it was a free promotion we did meet lots of new people covering a huge array of different types of business but was shocking was the sheer volume of non-compliance across many important and potentially dangerous areas.
From fire extinguisher servicing being out of date by many years to multiple compliance failures covering fireproofing and emergency lighting the vast majority of businesses were unaware of their responsibilities and that many of the issues found could lead to heavy fines and in the worst of cases a custodial sentence.
- Almost all the clients needed to improve their fire safety procedures.
- Almost all the clients had portable fire extinguishers installed, but some didn’t know how to use them and some didn’t realise they required servicing annually.
- Almost all the clients were unaware of the extent of their responsibilities to their customers and the staff’s safety.
- All the clients were not aware that they were liable for large fines by not complying with the fire safety order.
What shocked us most….. was the amount of people who had blindly overspent thousands on unnecessary equipment, for example, we found most people who had emergency lighting installed in their premises, not only had numerous emergency fittings installed in areas where they were not required but did not have emergency lights installed in vital safety areas.
This is because often customers would approach their local electrician to supply them with their emergency lights. Most local electricians only have a basic knowledge of designing emergency lighting systems but customers are often unaware of this fact. Often people who are unsure of the requirements will design systems that adopt the attitude of if you are not sure to assume it's needed.
Fire Alarms costing ten times as much as required
Another regular occurrence was the over-specification of fire alarms. A customer would proudly show off their newly installed and very expensive fire alarm unaware a fire alarm company salesman had seen them coming. We have seen £15,000 alarms systems installed in premises that needed a £1500 one (and that is not buying a cheap alternative!). All this could have been easily avoided by having a professional carry out a fire risk assessment of the premises. Fire risk assessments can cost as little as £99 but can more often than not save you hundreds if not thousands of pounds simply by guiding you in the right direction.
Not all improvements will need to be expensive and completed by professionals.
What should you do first?
Step 1 Contact a professional fire risk assessor to undertake an up to date fire risk assessment. Don’t be worried, they can’t shut you down and they can’t fine you. Fire risk assessors are employed by you and are there to help, advise and above all provide you with a simple step by step guide on how to improve your fire safety arrangements. Do your due diligence and ensure they are a fit and competent person to do this on your behalf as ultimately YOU are responsible for your own business.
Step 2 Review the assessment. A good fire risk assessment should categorise all the findings, we do ours using a traffic light system. The most urgent actions to be taken are in RED, the next set of actions are highlighted in AMBER and any minor actions are highlighted in GREEN.
Step 3 Make a plan. You should first try to complete all the URGENT recommendations; some actions may be simple like removing a padlock from a fire escape door or adjusting a fire door to ensure it provides you that vital barrier from the fire should one occur. Some of the other findings may require help from a professional, like repairing damaged fire barriers or installing a fire alarm system.
Step 4 Make sure you document your action plan, you never know when a fire officer will come knocking or even worse a fire could occur. If you have an up to date documented fire risk assessment along with an action plan for improvements, should the worse happen you will be able to prove that you have taken your fire safety responsibilities seriously.
Step 5 Calling in the professionals, if you find the risk assessment has highlighted the need for a new fire alarm system or an emergency lighting system, please make sure you know what you need before seeking the help of a professional. There are many types and categories of fire alarms systems for different types of premises, but your fire risk assessment should highlight what type of system you require. Believe me, when you contact these specialist companies, there are a lot of people that would be delighted to sell you a system that isn’t necessary (massively over spec), I see it all the time.
Final Step After all the actions have been completed, stay on top of it. You should review your fire risk assessment at least annually or earlier if you have needed to make changes to the premises.
If you need any advice on fire risk assessments of your fire safety responsibilities as a business owner please feel free to contact us 02921 252 424