What is a fire risk assessment?
As a landlord you need to ensure that you have a fire risk assessment in relation to your property at least every five years. It is important when managing a property that you are controlling the fire risks. You have to protect against risks of fire. The first step is to identify these risks and this is where the risk assessment comes in. There is a legal demand for non-domestic fire risk assessments i.e. commercial as well as on residential. Please see attached for more information – https://www.gov.uk/workplace-fire-safety-your-responsibilities/fire-risk-assessments
What is the law?
The law comes under the regulatory reform (fire safety) Order 2005. This came into force in October 2006 and replaced more than seventy pieces of different regulation on fire risk. It applies to all non-domestic premises in England and Wales. Including the common parts of blocks of flats and houses in multiple occupation.
What does the Act say?
The Act lays out that a responsible person must ensure that a fire risk assessment has been undertaken by a competent person. It must be implemented and maintain a fire risk management plan. This must be included with a generic risk assessment, or undertaken separately by a fire risk safety specialist. However, you need to have qualifications to do this to ensure that it is correct. You need to ensure that the assessments have been undertaken. An up to date fire management plan has been implemented every time this takes place which should be every five years.
It states that either an employer, a person who has control of the premises in connection with business or trade or the owner of the property is responsible to do this.
There are various Government Departments that deal with this. These are; the local Government Regulation, the Department of Communities and local Government Guides, the local Government Association and the Health and Safety Executive which is the most important.
The Health and Safety Executives state that there are various problems as follows:-
General Fire Safety Hazards
Fires are normally started by three things, a source of ignition, a source of fuel and oxygen.
Sources of Ignition for instant could include heaters, lighting, naked flames, electrical equipment, smoker’s materials, electrical installation and anything else that can cause heat or cause sparks.
Sources of fuel include wood, paper, plastic, rubber, foam, loose packaging materials, waste, rubbish and furniture. The oxygen is in the air around us.
What do the Health and Safety Executives say I have to do?
They need you to carry out the following:-
1. A fire risk assessment
2. Keep sources of ignition and flammable substances apart
3. Avoid accidental fires e.g. make sure that heaters cannot be knocked over
4. Ensure good housekeeping at all times avoid the build-up of rubbish that can burn
5. Consider how to detect fires and how to warn people quickly if they start i.e. smoke alarms and fire alarms.
6. Have the correct firefighting equipment for putting out a fire quickly
7. Keep fire exits and escape routes clearly marked and unobstructed.
8. Ensure your workers receive proper training on procedures.
9. Review this on a regular basis and at least every five years.
They also state that dangerous substances can cause fire and explosion. You have to ensure there are none of these items. This includes any form of storage of chemicals, vapours and dusts and anything that can burn easily.
What are the key points to remember from the Health and Safety Executive?
They state that you need to look at the following:-
a) Think about the risk of fire and exposure from substances you use or create
b) You supply safety details on any form of sheet or anything that is flammable
c) Make sure that there is nothing flammable stored at the property
d) Keep sources of ignition and substances that burn apart
e) Get rid of any flammable or explosive substances
f) Renew your fire risk regularly and at least every five years
If you manage your own building you need to ensure that you carry out a fire risk assessment. You are in control and thus it is important that you carry these works out.
You need to have a qualified person to do the fire risk assessment and they will attend the premises and check the common area and services. They will then compile a report that lays out recommendations that have been followed through.
What do they take into account in the report?
They take the following into account:-
1. The property
3. Occupants at risk
4. Fire loss
5. Relevant information
6. Relevant fire safety and station of method
7. Electrical sources of ignition
10. Portable heaters and heating installations
11. Lightning conduction
13. Hazards introduced by outside contractors and building
14. Other fire hazards
15. Means of escape from fire
16. Measures to limit fire spread and development
17. Emergency lighting
18. Signs and notices
19. Fire alarms
21. Management procedures and arrangements
23. Fire fighter safety and access
24. Fire risk assessment matrix
They will then have an action plan together with photographs.
The report will lay out the general information stating exactly what type of property it is, how it was built and the approximate square footage of the building. It will state how many people live in the property. It will lay out the legislation that it comes under. Including the HMG fire safety sleeping and accommodation guide 2006 and LACORs housing fire safety 2008.
It will also lay out the electrical hazards and whether there are any work that is required on these. Layout where there are any issues in respect of arson and portable heating installations and whether they need to be checked or not. The rest of the report will deal with the main management of the building. The signs together with any form of lighting and fire alarm system that may be required. It is important that you are aware that this report includes means of fire escape at the property and may have recommendations in this regard which we outline later.
The report will layout at the end full details of any improvements required within the property. These have to be carried out within a specific period of time and are done by way of a fire risk assessment matrix. This is laid out as slight harm, moderate harm and extreme harm. There are low, medium and high risks and these need to be taken into account. They will lay out exactly which item is which and give an action and time scale of when these items should be carried out. They often include recommendations as follows:-
1. Any boiler and electrical intake consumer units or distribution on escape routes normally enclosed in a 30 minute fire resistant material to include intumescent and cold smoke seals to any opening.
2. An EICR report which (please see our previous article) has to be carried out every five years.
3. Smoke free legislation signs that need to be put up in relation to the property
4. Arson which normally relates to an anti-arson letterbox etc.
5. Fire doors – there are various fire doors in relation to properties. Most are required to be a minimum FD30 which is a minimum of 30 minutes in order for them to burn through the door. These would include cold smoke seals and intumescent strips at the top and edges of the door to prevent the passage of smoke and fire. These all come under a British Standard BS8214:2008 and hinges under BSEN1935:2002: minimum grade CFD30
6. Compartmentation. This includes any protecting of pipes or cables or services through floors and is at least 30 minute fire resistant.
7. Fire alarm system – there are various fire alarm systems that they may recommend depending on the type of property but normally this is a category LD2 grade D automatic smoke detection within the common areas including integral sounders and heat detectors in each flat in the ceiling.
8. Fire extinguishers – may also be required
9. Fire safety arrangements – this is normally a detail of what needs to be done by the tenants etc. This needs to be kept in the building.
The above is only a guide of what may be required as each individual property is different. It is something you need to check.
There is also a guide form LACORs that come under Housing and Fire Safety and we have detailed this out under a separate article
It is so important that you are aware of what your legal requirements are. As in view of recent events that have taken place we expect that these may change over the years. If you do not have a fire risk assessment you should have one carried out and have any recommendations done within the time limit. They differ from property to property so it is important that you use a professional to do this.