I thought that I would start the new year with some advice on fire risk assessments and in particular ‘fire risk assessment review’
Firstly I will tell a story of what happened when I carried out a fire risk assessment review on a large country home/hotel incorporating holiday lets. I was contacted just before Christmas by a health and safety company who I have carried out fire risk assessments for them in the past. They asked if I would do a review of one their own fire risk assessments which was carried out the year before by one of their consultants.
A review is where you check to see if the previous action plan has been actioned on and at what stage they are at, I also I need to put my fire risk assessment hat on too so if I spot something that wasn’t picked up before or has happened since the last fire risk assessment was carried out then I need to tell them about that too and include it in my report. It is not a full fire risk assessment.
Since the last time the fire risk assessment was carried out , I found the below deficiencies.
Two fire doors in the kitchen area had no intumescent strips (they had somehow fell out) , these help seal the door in a fire and help prevent the spread of smoke and fire. Kitchens are a high risk area and any deficiencies in fire safety could put the premises and people at risk.
A fire door in one of the corridors didn’t close at all – this compromised the protected route.
A recently installed fire door had been incorrectly fitted, the gap between the top of the door and the frame were well above the 3mm standard and was approaching nearly 7mm – the intumescent strips won’t work correctly if above 4mm which is the max permitted gap.
The electric cupboard had holes in the brickwork and ceiling where electrical cables pass through, these hadn’t been fire stopped still.
A completely new electric cupboard hadn’t been picked up from the previous fire risk assessment, inside this there was a stool and table – all electric cupboards/services should be free of any combustible materials.
What if this fire risk assessment review was done every two years instead of annually? Would the problems double? What about the paying public and staff safety?
How many companies review their fire risk assessments annually or if ever?
The Fire Safety Order states that you should review your fire risk assessment regularly however there is no specific time frame on this. It also states that you should also review your fire risk assessment when there have been:
Changes to work activities or the way that you organise them, including the introduction of new equipment;
Alterations to the building, including the internal layout;
Substantial changes to furniture and fixings;
The introduction, change of use or increase in the storage of hazardous substances
The failure of fire precautions, e.g. fire-detection systems and alarm systems,
Change of use, e.g. hotel to hostel or hall of residence to residential conference centre
My intention here isn’t to rubbish the previous fire risk assessment as there was nothing wrong with it. It is to highlight what can happen if you don’t review your fire risk assessment regularly
So my question is: When was your last fire risk assessment review?
Fire doors are an important part of fire safety they save lives and property. They provide important protection within buildings such as protecting escape routes in staircases and corridors and making sure that smoke and fire are contained enough for people to escape.
Important facts about fire doors
Fire doors must work correctly to save lives
Fire doors must be fitted with the correct components suited to the door leaf and its purpose.
They should be maintained and installed by competent people.
Correct glazing and ironmongery must be used on fire doors
Alterations and adaptions must never be done whilst onsite.
A fire door’s performance should never be compromised
A Fire should never be wedged or propped open
Fire doors must be third party certified to BS 476 Part 22 or BS EN 1634 Part 1
Correct frames should always be used.
Intumescent strips should always be used.
Below is a video of how fire doors should be fitted and what happens when they are not!
DO’S & DON’TS
Specify and use third-party certified fire doors and components
Buy fire doors, frames and components from certified companies
Check the certificate matches the door
Make sure you have the correct certification for the door’s intended use
Install and maintain fire doors using competent personnel
Make sure that ironmongery components are CE marked
Fit a fire door like any other door – it’s not, it’s an engineered safety device
Cut vision panels and other holes on site
Patch up a fire door
Take risks by reducing the specification
Disconnect a fire door closer
Prop or wedge open a fire door
Some Images Of Dodgy Fire Doors
Below is a video of how installing a fire door is NOT the same as installing normal doors.
I have experienced this first hand when I carried out a fire risk assessment on a property of a client of mine. They used a construction company who have either never installed fire doors or have no idea how to, as the gaps between the leaf and frame were well above 3mm, they had cut too much off the doors, a lot of the doors wouldn’t close under there own weight plus there were only two hinges installed. The owner wasn’t very happy with this especially when I told him that all the fire doors need to rectified which undoubtedly meant replacement.
If you would like more information about fire doors please click here.
Thanks and credit for media goes to the B.W.F and the supporters of Fire Door Safety Week which can be found here.
7 things you need to know about fire risk assessments
[Tweet “If you’re either a landlord or a letting agent you should read this, it could save you money”].
There seems to be some confusion or misleading information out there regarding fire risk assessments. Some landlords think that if the property is licensed then they require a fire risk assessment however this is not the case at all. Every property that has a “shared staircase” (common areas) requires a fire risk assessment this also includes holiday lets, B&Bs and guest houses too.
1, A chance visit by a friendly fire officer
The fire service are visiting domestic homes and doing free fire safety checks at the moment and obviously they will call on a property by chance which could be a HMO. Once there they can then do an inspection of the property, they do not need a warrant of any sort – the fire service have more power than the police to enter buildings.
An example could be that one of your tenants is busy making dinner. When they hear the doorbell. They go to the door and find a fire officer standing there. They will introduce themselves show their ID and then explain they are in the area doing fire safety checks and educating people on fire and what to do in the event of fire. They then may ask who lives there etc. The tenant will most probably let the fire officer in as no one sees them as threats or nuances, after all they are good upstanding members of the community and generally people see them as heroes.
Once inside they will do a quick inspection and should it be a HMO or any other property with a shared staircase they will ask who the landlord is and whether they can see their fire risk assessment and fire log book. They will also ask the tenants what information they have been provided with from the landlord a fire should break out.
Example happened on a group I was posting too when the above situation happened to a landlord. A fire officer did a chance visit noticed deficiencies in fire safety found out who the landlord was and consequently checked the rest of their properties. Which cost the landlord money as the fire officer wanted the deficiencies rectified straight away or he would get the tenants removed.
2, You could lose money
Should the inspecting fire officer find insufficient fire safety measures in place he/she could get the tenants removed out of the HMO thus you the landlord losing money.
Or it could be you have had a small fire and your insurance company loss adjuster visits your premises. Should he or she see that your fire risk assessment is insufficient then they could remove the claim which means your insurance is null and void should you have no fire risk assessment in place?
3, You could get a large fine.
There will then be a further investigation and the landlord will be issued with an enforcement notice to get things rectified. Some give 3 months others are more stringent. They could even prosecute the landlords for breaches in the fire safety order and issue fines or worse – prison.
Here is an example of a large £80,000 fine being issued here
4, You feel you can do it yourself and save money
In the Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order 2005 it states that should you feel that you are competent enough you can do your own however there have been examples of landlords doing their own and consequently getting fines for insufficient fire risk assessments. Here is another example:
1st August 2013, Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service Defendant – Gurpartap Singh Bhullar, Company Director of Bellforce Developments, owners of a Slough based House of Multiple Occupation Charged with multiple fire safety failures, including failure to conduct a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment, failure to take general life precautions for persons sleeping on the premises, failure to provide adequate means of detection and giving warning in the event of a fire. Bhullar received a fine of £6,750, and Bellforce Developments received a fine of £13,500. Additionally, they were ordered to pay court costs of £21,732.62 to the fire authority.
In this I must be blunt: the average person is not competent enough in fire safety to undertake a fire risk assessment anywhere near adequate for what is required. Indeed I have seven years of fire safety experience and even so I felt that I should be credited under a recognised institute for carrying out fire risk assessments which is the Institute of Fire Safety Managers and Institute of Fire Engineering.
5, I will get my mate to do it he/she knows a bit about fire safety
Would you have an unqualified solicitor represent you in a court of law?
So why “risk” your life or freedom by getting a fire risk assessment done by an unqualified fire risk assessor.A fire risk assessment is a legal requirement under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
Can you be sure it was done by a competent person with appropriate qualifications and accreditation?
After all you are putting your lives and freedom in their hands, there are many cowboy companies out there who say they can do fire risk assessments and unfortunately these unscrupulous companies are very busy as they are not doing it correctly, therefore they can charge cheaper rates for their services.
These fire risk assessments are not worth the paper they are written on, there have been many examples of fire risk assessors and owners being prosecuted for incorrect fire measures.
Again this is possible and many people do this however what if you got something wrong or missed something or disregarded something as you thought not being important – it could come back to haunt you. After all they are just guides. So many businesses try and save money by doing it themselves through downloading guides etc. However most fire service prosecutions always seem to have ‘fire risk assessment not sufficient or correct’.
7, Okay, You now have a sufficient fire risk assessment done. What now?
Well done you have a fire risk assessment done by an accredited fire risk assessor and have been sent the document. What now?
There should be an action plan to follow which you must complete within the time frame using appropriate contractors who know what they are doing.
Most electricians don’t know how to put in fire systems with fire control panels, call points and detectors. They think they do and some will do there best to try and fit them. Unless they have had appropriate fire alarm training with certificates showing this, if not then use a proper fire alarm install company.
Remember whoever you employ to carry out work from the fire risk assessment action plan and should something go wrong you as the ‘Responsible person‘ will be held liable. The same applies to fire doors etc. Make sure your contractors know what they are doing and they have suitable qualifications.
I recently did a fire risk assessment on a HMO and noticed that the newly installed fire doors only had two hinges which should have been three. Things like the above example are extremely important regarding fire doors as they will not hold back the fire or smoke for 30 mins to allow for safe evacuation.
7,Review and Update
The fire safety order states that you should review your fire risk assessment on a regular basis. However with many recent changes to legislation and best practise it is advisable to get this done every 12 months – This will ensure that your property is safe and therefore safeguard your future pension.
Have you been in a situation when a fire alarm company states that you need to have an automatic system with smoke detection or that you think you need one.
Does this ring a bell? pardon the pun. What the fire alarm installation companies do is that when a customer has a requirement for a fire alarm. They put in the highest level of cover they ‘think’ is appropriate e.g. L2, L3 or in some extreme cases L1.
*However in hotels, guest houses, b&bs and where there are sleeping occupants in the business premise then an L1 or L2 systems are needed as stated in BS5839 code of practise.
This is because they are making sure that they cover themselves first against any repercussions that could happen from the result of putting in a lower category system e.g.. M (manual system) system or a L4 automatic system.
However if the company had a fire risk assessment done first correctly by a competent fire risk assessor who is qualified – sometimes a manual system is sufficient and only minor alterations (if required at all) to the the building are needed, like putting vision panels in rooms that are known as ‘inner rooms’.
e.g. An automatic fire alarm system could costs 3-4k (being very modest here) against a fire risk assessment which costs £300 plus around £500- £1000 (depending on how many rooms) for the installation of vision panels.
I wasn’t the best at maths in school but I know which one is less expensive without doing any calculations and you are still abiding by the Regulatory Reform (fire safety) Order 2005 and making your building safe.
Of course you will also be cutting down on your servicing costs too!
I hope you have taken something from this and in turn has helped your business save money.
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