There are obviously a myriad of reasons why a risk assessment could be deemed insufficient but to point you in the right direction here’s a ‘heads up’ to the the seven most common:
People at Risk through lack of or inadequate training. Many business owners delegate fire-safety responsibility to a senior member of staff or manager. Typically we find it has been passed to the head of HR or in a smaller business an admin or department manager.
Very often however no training, to assist them in their role, is put into place. If a member of staff is to become ostensibly a ‘fire marshal’ then there is a duty to provide them with adequate training.
On a broader note all members of staff can lack training when it comes to fire protection provision. If fire protection methods and services are employed then any staff that can avail themselves of these services should be trained to do so. A good example is fire-extinguisher training; if extinguishers are intended to be used by any member of staff then every member of staff needs to receive training
Electrical Hazards are most commonly represented by the lack of regular testing. All portable appliances (usually recognised by the provision of a plug and cord *but not exclusively) should have a regime of ‘Portable Appliance Testing’.
The fixed wiring in the building (lights, sockets etc.) require a ‘periodic inspection’ and certification. Most commercial premises require these tests at five-yearly intervals but this can vary dependent upon environmental factors.
* Items with a flex and no plug, such as a hand-dryer, also require PAT testing.
Combustibles on the escape route are commonly overlooked. Escape routes should be free from combustibles and or wall-linings that promote fire-spread. Many businesses in their efforts to cheer up a drab workplace introduce plants, coat stands, paintings etc.
Other small businesses are just simply challenged with space and place combustibles and sources of ignition on escape routes and stairs such as photocopiers or vending machines. They all need to go!
Insufficient compartmentation can be easily overlooked often due to lack of knowledge in terms of what to look for. If an escape route is required to have 30 minute fire-resistance and classified as a place-of-safety then the fire-stopping methods should be adequate. Generally people spot doors that don’t close or missing intumescent strips but rarely do they think to look above ceiling tiles or under floors. These are the areas that, over the years, have had compartments breached by various infrastructure installations (plumbing, phone and computer networks etc.). If there is a whacking big hole above the ceiling with a couple of small pipes going through – guess what? It won’t do!
Inadequate fire protection systems can be overlooked. When filling in a tick-box form ‘Does the building have a fire alarm?’ gets a big tick. When often this should be expanded to ‘Yes but it’s woefully inadequate’.
Likewise extinguisher provision can either be poor or non-existent. It is essential that any fire-fighting equipment provided is adequate in both terms of coverage and suitability to the potential fuels that are present.
No regular testing or too greater frequency of testing is common place. This is one of the most consistent failings for the average UK business. Simply the tests are not taking place or the frequency is not short enough inline with the British standard requirements. Further guidance can be found in my previous blog.