We recently attended a branch meeting of IOSH where two representatives from the Fire Service delivered a presentation. One key aspect that stood out to us was the fact that they believed 90% of SMEs are not meeting all of the requirements of the RRFSO 2005. The Fire Service is able to take action if a business is found not to be in full compliance. Over the last few years, The Fire Service has issued significant fines against businesses.
The RRFSO places a number of obligations upon a business but perhaps the key one is to ensure that a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to the business is undertaken.
In working with organisations around the U.K. we have found that many fail to either complete this fundamental step or have completed it badly. Often it is done cheaply in the belief that as long as there is a risk assessment in place that they are somehow compliant. The fact is if the fire brigade carry out an inspection they are able to take legal proceedings for this failure. In the event of a fire what is the insurer likely to make of no or a poor fire risk assessment?
The key to ensuring the assessment is up to scratch is to make sure it’s completed by persons that are competent, as this is a requirement of the RRFSO. Often in-house assessments are undertaken by persons with little experience or training and unless done for simple low risk workplaces then how are they going to be compliant? We appreciate that what does not help businesses is that there are a lot of consultants who don`t possess the necessary competence. You may have seen the fire consultant prosecution earlier this year. Let this be a warning to you. The Fire Service will take action against businesses.
As part of undertaking a large number of DSEAR assessments around the country, we are required to request to see the businesses’ fire risk assessments. In most cases we report back on the need to revisit the assessment, as it fails to account for the flammability of the substances or processes in the business. This seems to confirm the Fire Service’s thinking.
In addition to DSEAR assessments, we also provide fire risk assessment services for a number of clients. Recently one of the clients was visited by the Fire Service due to their close proximity to a major rail station; the officers went through the assessment in fine detail. We were pleased (but not surprised) to hear from the client that the fire officer had given positive feedback on their assessment; saying it was the best they had seen undertaken.
So our advice is go back and check if your fire risk assessment would pass such an inspection. Are you likely to get good feedback or a summons to a court visit?
It may appear that compliance is just having a written fire risk assessment, but it’s not. Why put your business at risk for what is a relatively small cost to put right? Getting it wrong could prove very costly in the long term.