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Every year people are seriously injured or dies as a result of fire in the workplace. Besides loss of life, fire costs UK businesses millions of pounds each year from property damage. In many cases, fires can be avoided by taking adequate fire precautions whilst completing a full fire risk assessment of your premises.
What is a risk assessment?

It is an organised look at what, in your work activities and workplace, could cause harm to people. This will allow you to weigh up whether you have taken enough precautions or should do more to avoid harm.

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  • Systematic Assessments
Before you start a risk assessment

Check whether any of the fire safety arrangements in your workplace have previously been approved under other fire safety, licensing or building legislation. If this is the case, an assessment of the fire precautions needed under that legislation will have been made at the time by, or in consultation with, the fire authority or the building control authority.

Regardless of any previous approval, you still need to carry out a fire risk assessment. However, if the previous approval covered all the matters required by the Fire Regulations, and conditions have remained unchanged, e.g. numbers of people present, work activity etc., then your fire risk assessment may well show that few, if any, additional precautions are needed.

Your risk assessment may identify additional matters which need addressing if the previous approval was given according to an out-of-date standard of fire precautions, or the approval was under legislation which does not cover all the requirements of the Fire Regulations. If you are not sure, your local fire authority will be able to advise you.

Before you start a risk assessment

The safety representative (if there is one) and your employees will have a valuable contribution to make. They can help you identify key issues and may already have practical suggestions for improvements.

Proper planning of your assessment, and any changes necessary because of it, includes consulting the workforce and their representatives. This can help ensure that any changes are introduced more easily and accepted more readily.

However, remember that risk assessment is essentially a matter of applying informed common sense. You need to identify what could reasonably be expected to cause danger. Ignore the trivial and concentrate on significant hazards.

Systematic assessments

It is important that you carry out your fire risk assessment in a practical and systematic way. It must take the whole of the workplace into account, including outdoor locations and any rooms and areas which are rarely used.

If your workplace is small you may be able to assess the workplace as a whole. In larger buildings, you will often find it helpful to divide the workplace into rooms or a series of assessment areas using natural boundaries, e.g. process areas, offices, stores, workshops as well as corridors, stairways and external routes.

If your workplace is in a building shared with other employers, you and all the other occupiers and any other person who has control of any other part of the workplace will need to discuss your risk assessments. This will help to ensure that any areas of higher risk, and the need for any extra precautions, are identified.

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