We go around the country and complete on average 4 DSEAR assessments a month and whilst doing these we look at the Fire and COSHH assessments each business has. We need to because the 3 sets of regulations are closely linked when trying to protect your workers, your business and the public from hazardous events.
What we are increasingly frustrated about, is the poor quality of the assessments we get to see. Most businesses have generally realised that DSEAR is too complex for them to be able to tackle themselves so call in expert help. However when it comes to fire risk assessment this seems to be an area many feel competent to take on, without sufficient knowledge. Just because a business has a document in place that is called a fire risk assessment this doesn’t mean they would be immune from prosecution if something were to go wrong.
Only recently we inspected a site and looked through an assessment that was clearly lacking; we found out the assessors only training was attending a half day fire warden course. This was a site with many flammable substances and where housekeeping was not as good as it could have been (both inside and outside of the factory). With arson being such a major reason for many industrial fires this was clearly a problem that should have been highlighted and fixed.
What is even more disappointing are the sub-standard assessments, provided by some so called experts. Let’s be honest, if you go to someone who sells and services fire extinguishers for an assessment what are they going to be looking at? Some of the sites we visit will have an extraordinary number of fire extinguishers in place (all needing to be serviced annually of course) yet will have a policy in place not to fight fires as very few employees are trained to use the extinguishers. You have to ask, what is being achieved?
It’s well known that many businesses fail to recover after a major event such as a fire, yet not enough seem to recognise that a fire could happen in their workplace. This is why making sure your fire risk assessment is properly undertaken and is kept up to date is so important.
An assessment we came across last week dated back to 2010 and clearly didn’t represent the conditions at the site that we found. Issues such as the condition of electrics, storage of flammable materials, housekeeping, employee attitude and training are all dynamic issues that change over time and the risk assessment should recognise this.
If you want to keep your business safe we strongly recommend you take a look at your fire risk assessment and ask is it really good enough.