Five steps to fire risk assessment

We’ve put together our five steps to fire risk assessment to help guide you through the process.

Before you start

  • Find the fire risk assessment guides that are relevant to your premises. These guides will tell you how you might comply with fire safety law, help you to carry out a fire risk assessment and identify the general fire safety measures you need to have in place.

    You may need to refer to more than one. For example, a small public house that provides accommodation for guests and staff should refer to the guides for both small and medium places of assembly and sleeping accommodation.
     

  • Download our risk assessment template. The guidance on this page will help you complete the risk assessment template and consider different aspects of fire safety in your property.

1. Identify the fire hazards

Make a note of:

  • things that could start a fire e.g. faulty electrical equipment, cooking, portable gas heaters
  • anything that could allow the fire to develop and spread e.g. packaging materials, rubbish, decorations and wall coverings
  • sources of oxygen, other than the air around you e.g. air conditioning systems, oxygen cylinders, fireworks (which contain oxidising materials).

2. Identify people at risk

Consider the people who may be in your building - what are they doing and where are they?

Think about all the people who work, visit or stay in your building. Pay particular attention to those especially at risk in the event of a fire on the premises.

Examples to consider

  • People sleeping - they will not detect a fire, will be slow to react to an alarm and may be disorientated.
  • Noisy environments - people may not hear the alarm due to loud music or the wearing of ear defenders.
  • Staff who work out of normal office hours, or in an isolated part of the building. This could be cleaners, maintenance staff or security staff.
  • People with disabilities such as restricted mobility, visual or hearing impairment.
  • Children and young people.

3. Identify the measures needed to keep people safe

Once you've considered the fire risks and who is at risk, you need to look at the practical things you can do to prevent a fire from happening and keep people safe if there is a fire.

Reducing the risk of fire

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Start by considering the hazards you have identified in step one. You now need to remove those hazards if possible.

If you cannot remove them, then you need to reduce the risk as low as possible. This will help prevent a fire and the spread of fire on your premises.
 

In the event of a fire

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You need to consider how you keep people safe in the event of a fire on the premises. Even if you have never had a fire before, it does not mean it will never happen.

Use the information you gathered in step two to identify the measures needed which will ensure people can escape quickly and safely.

Use these questions to guide you.

  • How will a fire be detected? Consider any areas where a fire could start and develop without anyone noticing.
  • How you will ensure everyone is alerted to a fire on the premises? Consider where they are and what they are doing.
  • Could a small fire be extinguished to prevent it from developing into a larger fire? The safe use of an appropriate fire extinguisher on a small fire can prevent it from growing out of control. 
  • Will people be able to find the fire exits? What happens if the premises plunges into darkness? Consider escape signage and emergency escape lighting.
  • Are your escape routes usable, suitable and do they lead to a place of total safety? Escape routes should be easily available for use in an emergency. Do not padlock or block them. They need to be suitable for anyone on your premises who may need to use them. They should not lead people to a place where there is no further escape, such as an enclosed yard.
  • Would people have to go past a fire to reach a final exit? Consider the parts of your premises where there is only one escape route. This may be from a room, a floor, a corridor or a staircase. The further people have to travel the more likely you will need to provide a protective fire barrier. This is typically known as a protective route consisting of fire doors and fire-resisting construction (walls, floors and ceilings).

Ideally, in the event of fire people should be able to see it, turn their back on it and reach a place of total safety.

Where this isn’t possible, due to the size and layout of the premises, you will need to put in place measures which will prevent people from becoming trapped by fire and smoke. Larger and more complex premises may require more thorough consideration.

4. Record, plan, inform, instruct and train

This step is about making sure that you have a record of your plan and that everyone knows their responsibilities for fire safety and what to do in the event of a fire.

Recording your risk assessment

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Record the significant findings and the actions you have taken to remove or reduce the risks.

If you or your organisation employs five or more people, or your premises are licensed (e.g alcohol, theatre, gaming or licensed House in Multiple Occupation) then you must record the significant findings of your fire risk assessment. Most people record the whole risk assessment.

We recommend you keep a record even if you do not have to, as it will help you to identify the risks, what you have done to remove or reduce those risks and how you are keeping people safe.

This record can be digital or a paper copy. It needs to be easily available so that anyone you have appointed to manage fire safety at the premises can carry out their duties.

Recording significant findings

Significant findings are:

  • the fire hazards you have identified (you do not need to include trivial things e.g. one small tin of oil-based paint)
  • the actions you have taken or will take to remove or reduce the chance of a fire occurring (preventative measures such as Portable Appliance Testing (PAT))
  • people who may be at risk, particularly those at greatest risk (such as lone workers, people with restricted mobility)
  • the actions you have taken or will take to reduce the risk to people from the spread of fire and smoke (protective measures such as fire doors)
  • the actions people need to take in case of fire including details of any persons nominated to carry out a particular function (this is your emergency plan)
  • the information, instruction and training you have identified that people need and how it will be given.

Any measures that you have identified need to be put in place should be actioned as soon as possible. This may require you to put in place temporary measures until a more permanent solution can be provided. 

It's also a good idea to have a plan of your premises, detailing the fire precautions you have put in place. This will also help you when carrying out a review.

Create an emergency plan

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Your plan should detail what people need to do in the event of a fire on the premises. Base your emergency plan on the outcome of your fire risk assessment. Include procedures for the safe evacuation of people who may need assistance. Your emergency plan should not rely on any intervention from the fire service.

In simple premises, the emergency plan may be no more than a fire action notice. In shared or more complex premises, the emergency plan will need to be more detailed. Identifying those who have specific roles, such as fire wardens.

Inform, instruct and train

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Provide training to your staff on how to prevent fires and what they should do if there is a fire. Include the importance of any fire safety features installed on your premises e.g. fire doors.

Make sure you include staff that work outside of normal business hours, such as night staff and cleaners, along with temporary or agency staff.

When providing information and instruction about your fire safety measures you will also need to consider anyone else who may visit or stay on your premises. For example, contractors, anyone hiring the premises, guests. 

The information, instruction and training you give must be in a way that can be used and clearly understood.

5. Reviewing your risk assessment

We recommend you review your risk assessment at least annually.

You must review your risk assessment regularly and whenever there has been a significant change that could impact it. This applies to all risk assessments whether you are required to keep a record or not.

Significant changes could include:

  • a change of use
  • a change of contents 
  • an alteration to the building. 

Regularly reviewing your assessment will help you ensure the fire safety measures you have put in place remain suitable and identify any additional measures.