Fire Risk Assessments
The responsible person must carry out, or appoint a competent person to carry
out, a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment of the risks of fire to their
employees and others who may be affected by their work or business. Those who
employ five or more employees should keep a formal record of any significant
findings and remedial measures which have, or may need to be, taken. A Fire Risk
Assessment helps you identify all the fire hazards and risks in your premises.
You can then decide whether any risks identified are acceptable or whether you
need to do something to reduce or control them. A risk assessment should be
carried out by someone who has had sufficient training, and has good experience
or knowledge of fire safety.
The competent person or fire risk assessor need not possess any specific
academic qualifications but should:
- understand the relevant fire safety legislation;
- have appropriate education, training, knowledge and experience in the
principles of fire safety;
- have an understanding of fire development and the behavior of people in
- understand the fire hazards, fire risks and relevant factors associated
with occupants at special risk within the buildings of the type in question, and
- have appropriate training and/or experience in carrying out fire risk
Suitable and sufficient
Whilst the legislation does not define suitable and sufficient it is generally
considered that a risk assessment should do the following:
Identify the fire hazards.
Identify people at risk.
Evaluating the risks.
Record your findings.
Review and revise
A Fire Risk Assessment helps you identify all the fire hazards and risks in your
Here is the first of five steps to carrying out a fire risk assessment
in the workplace.
Step 1 of 5 - Identifying the fire hazards
For fire to occur there must be a source of ignition, fuel and oxygen.
If all three are present, and in close proximity to each other, then the fire
risk could increase as a result.
In the average premises fire hazards will fall into the first two categories,
while the oxygen will be present in the air in the surrounding space.
Occasionally oxygen can be found in chemical form (oxidising agents) or as a gas
in cylinders or piped systems.
Potential sources of ignition could include:
- Naked flames: smoker’s materials, matches, pilot lights, gas/oil heaters,
gas welding, cookers etc.
- Hot surfaces: heaters, engines, boilers, machinery, lighting (for example,
halogen lamps), electrical equipment etc.
- Hot work: welding, grinding, flame cutting.
- Friction: drive belts, worn bearings etc.
- Sparks: static electricity, metal impact, grinding, electrical
- Arson, for example, deliberate ignition.
Potential sources of fuel: anything that burns is a potential fuel, examples
- Solids: textiles, wood, paper, card, plastics, rubber, PU foam, furniture,
fixtures/fittings, packaging, waste materials etc.
- Liquids: solvents (petrol, white spirit, methylated spirits, paraffin,
thinners etc), paints, varnish, adhesives etc.
- Gases: LPG, acetylene.
Potential sources of oxygen could include:
- Oxygen cylinders
- Chemical processes producing oxygen as a by-product
- Piped oxygen in Care Premises
Your risk assessment should list the potential sources of ignition and fuels
that are present in your premises.
Step 2 of 5 - Identifying people at risk
If there is a fire, the greatest danger to people is the spread of the fire,
heat and smoke through the premises which can very quickly incapacitate those
If a premise does not have adequate means of escape or if a fire can grow to an
appreciable size before it is noticed, then people may become trapped or
overcome by heat and smoke before they can evacuate.
Your assessment of identifying people at risk should include:
- People working near to fire dangers
- People working alone or in isolated areas (such as roof spaces, storerooms
- Children or parents with babies
- The elderly or infirm and people with disabilities
Step 3 of 5 – Evaluate, remove, reduce, and protect from risk
Once the hazards and the people at risk have been identified, you must assess
the effect of any particular hazards, taking account of any existing control
measures that are already in place. Once this has been done, you must decide if
any further control measures are needed in order to reduce the risk to an
Further control measures may:
- Act to reduce the possibility of ignition.
- Minimise the potential fuel load in the premises.
- Assist people to escape from the effects of a fire, should it occur.
They may fall into a number of different categories, such as:
- Fire safety management systems.
- Means of escape.
- Staff training.
- Fire warning systems.
- Means of fighting fire.
Different control measures can be applied to reduce the risk to an acceptable
level. For example, if the risk is the possibility of a fast growing fire,
potential control measures could include one or any combination of the
- Changing the process to use a slower burning fuel.
- Removing or reducing possible ignition sources.
- Moving the hazard to an area that affects the minimum number of people,
for example, outside the premises.
- Providing an additional exit/protected route to speed up the escape of the
- Providing a fire detection and alarm system to warn people of the fire in its
- Training staff to reduce the possibility of a fire occurring, for example,
housekeeping/safe working practices.
- Providing appropriate firefighting equipment / fixed installation, for
example, a sprinkler system.
While this list is not exhaustive and applies to one area of risk only, it can
be seen that there may be a number of different solutions depending on the
nature of the situation.
If any areas of inadequacy are identified, an action plan must be included to
show how the problem is being addressed. This should include timescales for
achieving the required level of control and specify who is responsible for the
If your premises are situated in a relatively modern building it should already
incorporate important control measures that were installed to meet the
requirements of the building regulations. For example, fire escape staircases,
fire lobbies, fire doors, emergency lighting etc.
Many of these measures will also be found in older buildings. If your building
was issued with a fire certificate under the Fire Precautions Act, details of
existing control measures will be detailed in that document.
You should include details of these existing control measures in your fire risk
assessment. Remember, a full understanding and evaluation of the existing
control measures is essential - it is your starting point for deciding if any
further action is necessary.
You should plan, control, monitor and review all the fire safety arrangements.
Step 4 of 5 – Record, plan, inform, instruct and train.
You must record the significant findings of your risk assessment, together with
details of any people that are at particular risk, where:
- A licence under an enactment is in force.
- An Alterations Notice under the Fire Safety Order requires it.
- You are an employer and have five or more employees.
More importantly, the record must show whether the existing control measures are
adequate and, if not, what further action is required to reduce the risk to an
Remember to make sure any control measures identified or introduced remain
effective by testing and maintaining them regularly. For larger premises you are
encouraged to include a simple floor plan in your fire risk assessment. You can
use the plan to record fire hazards and control measures in a simple format that
is easily understood.
Step 5 of 5 - Reviewing and revising the risk assessment
It is important to remember that fire risk assessment is a continuous process
and as such must be monitored and audited. New and existing control measures
should be maintained to make sure they are still working effectively.
However, if you introduce changes into your premises your original risk assessment
may not address any new hazards or risk arising from them. For this reason it is
also important to review and revise your assessment regularly.
This doesn't mean that it is necessary to amend your assessment for every
trivial change that occurs, but the impact of any significant change should be
considered. For example:
- A new work process may introduce additional fuels or ignition sources.
- Changes to furniture layout or internal partitions could affect the
ability for occupants to see a fire and escape in time.
- Increasing the number of people may mean that a fire exit is now too small
to cope with their escape within a safe period.
- Occupying another floor of the building may mean that an electrical fire
warning system is now necessary.
The above list is not exhaustive and any change that could lead to new hazards
or risks should be considered.
For further and more detailed guidance the Department for Communities and Local
Government (DCLG) have produced a range of Fire Safety Risk Assessment Guides to
assist all Responsible Persons.
Fire Safety Risk Assessment Guides
Fire safety in Offices & Shops ISBN-13: 978 1 85112 815 0 All offices and retail
Fire safety in Factories and Warehouses ISBN-13: 978 1 85112 816 7 All factories
and warehouse storage premises.
Fire safety in premises providing Sleeping Accommodation ISBN-13: 978 1 85112
817 4 All places where sleeping accommodation is provided, except hospitals,
care homes, places of custody and single private dwellings.
Fire safety in Residential Care Premises ISBN-13: 978 1 85112 818 1 Suitable for
all residential and nursing homes, out-posted nursing care in single private
dwellings and home-based child-minders.
Fire safety in Educational Premises ISBN-13: 978 1 85112 819 8 Teaching
establishments ranging from crèches through to universities.
Fire safety in Small and Medium Places of Assembly ISBN-13: 978 1 85112 820 4
Public houses, clubs, restaurants and cafés, village halls, community centres
and libraries accommodating up to 300 people.
Fire safety in Large Places of Assembly ISBN-13: 978 1 85112 821 1 Suitable for
premises where more than 300 people gather, for example, shopping centres, large
nightclubs, exhibition and conference centres, sports stadia, churches,
cathedrals, museums and libraries.
Fire safety in Theatres and Cinemas and similar Premises ISBN-13: 978 1 85112
822 8 Suitable for all theatres and cinemas.
Fire safety at Open Air Events and Venues ISBN-13: 978 1 85112 823 5 Suitable
for all open air events, for example, theme parks, zoos, music concerts,
sporting events, fairgrounds and county fairs.
Fire safety in Healthcare Premises ISBN-13: 978 1 85112 824 2
Fire safety in Transport Premises and Facilities ISBN-13: 978 1 85112 825 9
Suitable for all transportation terminals and interchanges, tunnels and
Fire safety in Animal Premises and Stables ISBN-13: 978 1 851 12 884 6 Suitable
for all equine establishments, stables, livery yards and other animal