Having a comprehensive fire risk assessment for your premises performed by someone suitably qualified could save you a lot of money and heartache in the long run.  The safety of yourself, your staff and potential customers is priceless.  A fire risk assessment is not an option – the responsible person for the business is legally required to undertake an adequate fire risk assessment for the business premises.      So what is a fire risk assessment?A fire risk assessment is about a qualified person performing a critical evaluation of your premises to achieve two main goals.  Firstly, the assessment seeks to identify the likelihood of a fire starting by detecting all potential fire hazards, and evaluates the ways in which these fire dangers can be eliminated or minimised.  Secondly, it identifies the people who will be at risk should a fire actually occur on your premises, and helps you to develop a plan about how you can keep everyone safe.So the fire risk assessment will look at both fire prevention, and how to deal with an actual fire on your premises.

A good fire risk assessment should include written records of how existing fire controls measure up, what changes need to be made or what additional controls should to be incorporated.  It is not about recording all findings, just anything that is significant.  Like many other aspects of your business, a fire risk assessment is not something static – it changes as your business premises and activities change, so it is something that needs on-going review.

How to appoint a competent fire risk assessor

A fire risk assessment is an organized process carried out by assessors who understand the principles of fire safety.  However, the duty of care for the safety of everyone on your premises remains with you, not the fire risk assessor.  As the duty holder, you need to make sure the assessment being carried out is adequate.  As a start, you need to take reasonable steps to ensure you are hiring someone competent to do the job.  This could involve checking that the potential assessor has registration with, or certification from, a professional body such as BAFE (British Approvals for Fire Equipment), or in the U.S., certification from the U.S. Fire Administration.  Being registered with a professional body is a sign of the assessor’s competence, so look for BAFE approved companies to carry out your particular assessment, or those registered on the BAFE SP205 scheme. 

Another way of ensuring that you hire someone competent is to look for people or companies with a third party certification for their competence by a UKAS accredited body.  

Other ways to attain an adequate assessment include checking that your potential assessor has experience in assessing your type of business, as well as asking for references as proof of their previous work.  The scope of the work to be carried out should be documented, and you should get a few quotes so you can compare them.  Be wary of anyone who offers to do the same job for a significantly lower fee.

It is vital that your business takes the time to source a qualified and certified fire risk assessor. This will give you and your staff peace of mind that the business premises is free from any fire risks, and should the worst occur, the correct equipment is place and in full working order.

In the U.S., the same would apply; as contacting the Fire Prevention Association or other Fire Officials are certified to do the risk assessments.