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HEALTH & SAFETY Who is carrying out

your fire risk assessment and howdo you know

they are competent, asks KevinBOreham

business *


On 8 July 2011 a fire risk assessor and the responsible person for two properties were jailed for (among other offences) failing to carry out

a suitable fire risk assessment (See Health and Safety atWork, Sept 2011 issue, P8). Sowhoisthe competentpersonwhenit

comestocompletingfire risk assessments? This is a veryimportant questionfor freeholders, managing agents,RMCsoranyoneelsewho hasmanagerial control of a property. TheRegulatoryReform(Fire Safety)Order

2005 (FSO) stipulates a person shall be regarded as competent…”where he has sufficient trainingand experience or knowledge”. However, this iswhereitall starts to go wrong. Howmuchtraining, experience or knowledge is sufficient?Atpresent thereare no formal qualifications required to becomeaFireRisk Assessor, although there are a number of excellent trainingprogramsavailable. No matter howmuchknowledge is gained within aclassroomsetting,there is nothinglike practicalexperience. Having an assessment peer-reviewed or scrutinisedbythe localfire inspectorreallyhighlightsweaknessesinthe methods used and report formats.

Right fiRst time? Sadly, experience shows that even someof the biggest namesinthe provisionofhealthand safety services canget itwrong.Whenmy company recently took on a newproperty a fire risk assessmentwasprovided. Somestartling

and basicomissionswereuncovered – nDryriser systemswould notholdwater as the bolts were only finger tight.

nComplete stairwells were bereft of any

workingemergency lights nSecuritywas compromised allowing entryto

all and sundry nPlantroomswere used by residentsasstorage

facilities nAutomaticsmoke ventilationsystemwas not in working order. Whenquestioned, theon-site staff remarked that thepreviousassessorhad beenthere for

training,experience orknowledgeis sufficient?

less than 30 minutes. Thismay have been ampletimehad this been asmall apartment block; howeverthiswas asubstantial property of 12 cores over 10 -12 floors plus two levels of undercroft parkingand severalplant rooms. Theremustbesomedoubt as to howa“suitable andsufficient” assessment canbecarried outif this is the approach that is taken.


nSeek out assessorswho have formal qualifications; preferablymore thanaday long course.

nCheckthe assessor’s area of specialism; those doing assessmentsinresidential properties require a


different knowledge base to thoseworking in other areas.

nAsktosee samples of previous risk assessments

nUse an established company

nEnsure that access is provided to all areas of the property and that all relevant information ismade available to the assessor.

nRead and question the results to ensure this is not done as a tick box exercise


A littleknowledge... Formal training is only one facet ofwhat is required to become a good fire risk assessor. An understandingofbuilding regulations, constructionmethodsand buildingmaterials will allowthe assessor tomake a better judgement of therisks.Lookinthe back of anyhealthand safety journaland youwill findadverts fromcompaniesseeking serving or ex-fire officers to be fireriskassessors.In fact theymaynot necessarily be best suited to thejob,asdemonstratedbyone servingfire fighterwho,when asked about the finer points of firerisk, washeard to reply“HowshouldI know, I just turn up with a hose pipe to put the fire out”. Enforcingthe FSOand attempting to write

areporttohelpothersabide by it aretwo entirely different things.Enforcement has the luxury of taking ablack andwhite approach – something is either compliant or not. Real life has otherissues to deal with,suchas staffing levels and human interaction with the property. Sowhat is a “suitable and sufficient

assessment of therisks”? Generallythat dependsonwho is asking thequestion, the knowledgeofthe person asking thequestion andwhattypeofproperty it relatesto. After severalyears conducting risk assessments in residential, retirement andofficeblocks Ibelieve that Ican produceasuitableand sufficient assessment forthese properties. Anyattempt bymeto do this foranindustrial site or shopping complexislikelytoresultin an ‘unsuitableand insufficient’assessment. Withoutthe appropriate knowledgeand observationalskillsitishighlylikelythat deficient, inappropriate or missing passive/ active fireprotectionmeasureswillgo undetected.

Spring2012 Flat Living

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