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How to undertake a fire risk assessment

A major fire in the workplace can kill and injure through direct contact with fire, smoke or exposure to hazardous substances. If you are not prepared, a fire could also signal the end for your business.

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Managing fire risk is an essential and sensible business management function and it's also a legal requirement. The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (FSO) requires business to assess the fire risks from their operations.

The fire safety measures within a workplace must comprise the following:

  • Measures to reduce the risk of fire and the risk of spread of fire
  • The means of escape from fire
  • The measures necessary to assist people in the use of the escape routes, such as emergency escape lighting, fire exit signs and measures for smoke control
  • Fire extinguishing appliances
  • Any fire alarm system necessary to ensure the safety of occupants
  • An emergency plan. In simple premises the emergency plan may be no more than a fire action notice, but it is important that the procedure to adopt in the event of fire is disseminated to all service users
  • Maintenance of all of the above measures
  • Maintenance of measures required by legislation (including the Building Regulations) for the safety of, or use by, fire-fighters.

Appropriate fire safety measures should be determined by undertaking a ‘suitable and sufficient’ fire risk assessment. Download an editable fire risk assessment form here; Forum members should use this in conjunction with Section 1 of their Health & Safety Guide. For further help, call our helpline on 0845 130 1722.

If the responsible person or person having control of the premises employs five or more persons in their organisation (regardless of where they are employed), the significant findings of the Fire Risk Assessment must be documented.

In this case, the fire safety arrangements must also be recorded as part of the arrangements for the effective planning, organisation, control, monitoring and review of the preventive and protective measures.

Five steps to Fire Risk Assessment (FRA)

  1. Identify fire hazards (sources of ignition, fuel and oxygen)
  2. Identify people at risk (people in and around the premises and people who are especially at risk)
  3. Evaluate the risks of a fire occurring and the risk to people from fire, remove or reduce fire hazards
  4. Record the significant findings and any actions taken (prepare an emergency plan, inform and instruct relevant people, cooperate and coordinate with others and provide training)
  5. Keep the assessment under review and revise where necessary.

The responsible person

So, if you are the ‘responsible person’ then you must:

  • Carry out and regularly review a fire risk assessment of the premises
  • Tell staff or their representatives about the risks you’ve identified
  • Put in place, and maintain, appropriate fire safety measures
  • Plan for an emergency
  • Provide staff information, fire safety instruction and training.

You should also think about what impact the fire may have on your business and so develop a business continuity plan to cover possible outcomes. This may include obtaining specific business Interruption or business continuity insurance to ensure that you can be resilient in getting the business back and operating after a serious event.

About the author

MD Safety Management is a health and safety consultancy that produces the Forum’s Health and Safety Guide as a way to assist members in understanding where gaps may exist in their health and safety management systems and to develop a simple action plan to address them.

For more information, call the Forum now on 0845 130 1722.

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