Fire Risk Assessment
The fire risk assessment is the cornerstone of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and has clearly had a significant impact on businesses. Six years on, many organisations are now counting the cost of what they thought to be compliance. We tend to hear only of those counting the cost of non- compliance after a successful prosecution but this is merely the tip of the iceberg.
The Key to Achieving Compliance
Reacting to the findings of a fire risk assessment is the key to achieving compliance and how this is completed is often the challenge for fire safety managers. A lot of the fire safety regulations and procedures are open to interpretation. Quality of work and competency of tradesmen continues to be a controversial subject. Although standards continue to rise, the quality of work is only one area of concern; interpreting the correct level of specification also becomes questionable.
Fitting a door is one thing to a carpenter but fitting a fire door that meets the requirements in terms the performance, the seals, hinges and closing devices is another, and all can have a significant impact on the fire safety of the building. This is just one area that can challenge the fire safety manager’s knowledge and confidence but at least it is a physical one that can be inspected, operated and adjusted; in some cases it can be compared to another door or fire safety feature to confirm it’s correct and complies.
Fire Safety Management
But what about the cloudy subject of fire safety management? It is an area where a fire safety audit can support the fire safety manager in many ways. Auditing, in its various forms, is a tool that can be used to identify the relative strengths and weaknesses of organisations fire risk management efforts. It may be that a weakness could potentially have a fundamental and immediate impact preventing the achievement of strategic aims and/or objectives, or result in an unacceptable exposure to other strategic risks or hazards.
Some weaknesses identified may relate only to issues of best practice which could improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the system or process. Experience has shown that the process of auditing can significantly build risk treatment capability within an organisation.
The fire safety profession has spent considerable time pondering on the competencies required by fire risk assessors, but little consideration has been given to the competencies of fire safety managers appointed to take responsibility for the effective planning organisation, control monitoring and reviews of an organisation’s fire risk management programme.
An audit can often highlight the fact that the value of a fire risk assessment is somewhat dependent on the organisation’s ability to act upon the findings. An independent audit of a fire risk assessment programme should not be misconstrued as an opportunity to discredit those delivering it. However, it is an opportunity to moderate risk ratings and evaluate priorities in line with organisational objectives. Fire risk assessments can sometimes be treated as a specification of works and large sums of money can be spent blindly, without achieving an improved level of safety proportionate to the spend.
Audits are no longer limited to hazard avoidance and compliance. Managing loss potential, while consciously taking acceptable risks, directly enables the management to provide fair returns on investment in compliance and risk management.
Independent, Objective Assurance
A fire risk management audit can offer independent, objective assurance on processes and controls for effectively managing your business risks. When undertaken by a competent auditor it can add value and improve an organisation’s operations. It can help an organisation to accomplish its objectives by bringing a systematic, structured and disciplined approach to evaluate and improve the effectiveness of fire risk management and control.
It is this area that Hurtwood Fire Risk Management can provide you with support, guidance and direction that you feel you may need to help you achieve compliance. Peace of mind in that a safe system of fire safety management is in place and one that will make the fire safety manager’s job and his supporting team much easier and purposeful.
If you feel you require help and support in any areas of fire safety, training or management for your business please feel free to contact us.
t: 01483 671 087