Nowadays, the Government has required all high-rise residential buildings to have complete fire risk assessments. However, non-residential buildings are not subject to the same rules. It is down to the discretion of each owner or landlord as to whether they carry out a fire risk assessment or not.
If you work in an office building, shop, bar, or club, there is no legal obligation for you to have your workplace checked by a qualified fire safety professional. This only applies if the building has five stories, including basements or more. The number of people at any given time will also play a part—if less than 500 people regularly use it, no checks are needed.
This means that smaller businesses with less than five floors may not have a risk assessment carried out even if they are near a residential building.
In the case of industrial buildings, an employer must assess risks from fire and maintain the site in a safe condition. However, there is no specific legal requirement for employees to be given a fire risk assessment when using industrial premises, provided they are not staying overnight. Employees must be told about any potential hazards at their place of work, and these assessments should be regularly reviewed. Suppose employees work on temporary sites such as oil rigs or construction. In that case, they need to be given a formal safety induction that will include information on health and safety, including fire safety. This applies whether employees sleep or not. All equipment also needs to comply with health and safety requirements which will help to safeguard workers.
An office building is also required to have regular assessments every five years. However, there is no requirement for this information to be made available to employees or public members, including people who live in the vicinity of the building. If not for organizations such as ‘Hands Off Our Homes’ putting pressure on landlords, they may not even provide these details for residents living in industrial buildings.
If you are concerned about the amount of fire risk assessments being carried out, it is probably best not to look at Grenfell. A tower block was checked three times in the space of one year before the tragedy happened. The cladding installed on the building may have helped spread the fire faster; air-conditioning equipment had also been placed just meters away from combustible material, causing some people to jump to their deaths rather than face being burnt alive.
A Fire Risk Assessment should include the following sections:
1) Background information, e.g., size of building or company, names and contact details of current owners/occupiers, etc… 2) Identification of significant fire hazards this could be documented specifying how you choose what your main risks are depending on occupancy, use type and property type 3) Details of any risk control precautions that have been put in place, for example, automatic fire extinguishers 4) Plans indicating escape routes 5) A suitable conclusion which may include recommendations for further action to reduce the risk presented by the building 6) Post-fire analysis, which offers an opportunity to reflect on the events of fire and suggest new or revised procedures.
The cost of carrying out a Fire Risk Assessment is typical £300–£600 per building. This cost will vary depending on the size and complexity of the building and how much work needs to be done to identify all significant risks, e.g., access issues for cleaning staff and contractors, etc… However, if your company does not have suitable Fire Risk Assessments implemented, you could see your company fined up to £20,000 per breach so that it might pay off in more ways than one!
It is important to remember that fire risk assessments are just one part of ensuring safety. The most crucial part is investing in good fire safety training for all staff.