Unlike Risk Assessment that is carried out for more general Health and Safety hazards, a Fire Risk Assessment is normally evaluated once for the whole premises (or the part of the premises for which the assessment has been done).
As with the more general Risk Assessment methods, it is common practice to think about two factors when considering the risk: the liklihood of an outbreak of fire, and the severity should there be a fire.
Likelihood of fire
This part of the assessment considers how likely there will be fire at the premises caused by any one of the ignition sources that has previously been identified.
It is common practice in a Fire Risk Assessment to chose one category from three possible categories as shown below:
Low (Score = 1)
Low may be selected if there is an unusually low probability that a fire may occur. This may because there are negligible sources of ignition and only small amounts of flammable and combustible material present.
Medium (Score = 2)
This is selected when the fire hazards are normal for the type of premises. Other than some minor shortcomings in fire prevention, fire hazards are subject to appropriate controls.
High (Score = 3)
This is used when there is a lack of control over one or more fire hazards, which is likely to result in a significant increase in the probability of a fire starting.
Using the above as a guide, select one of the three options and make a note of the score given in brackets.
Severity of harm
The severity of harm can also be evaluated in a similar way to the Liklihood. Again, one category out of three possible options should be selected.
Keep in mind that this is an assessment about how the fire affects the people who may be affected by the fire, and does not consider damage to property (but it may be prudent to consider this too, but as part of a wider fire safety audit).
Slight harm (Score = 1)
If there is an outbreak of fire, it is not likely that there will be any loss of life or serious harm to any person (other than anyone who is asleep in the room where the fire starts). Fire precautions, such as alarm systems and extinguishers, are appropriate to the fire risk and maintained correctly.
Moderate harm (Score = 2)
This category is used when it is foreseeable that a fire could result in injury or serious injury of one or more people, but multiple fatalities are not likely. This may be because there are defficiencies in some of the fire precautions, the management of fire safety or maintenance of systems and equipment.
Extreme harm (Score = 3)
This category is selected when there is a significant potential for death or serious injury affecting one or more people. This is often down to serious defficiencies in fire precautions, such as a lack of fire exits, inadequate fire alarm or ineffective fire procedures.
Once again, use the above as a guide and make a note of the score.
Evaluation of Risk
As this stage, we have to bring together the likelihood and severity that has been selected from the options given above.
On this page, each of the options has been given a score. The two scores are simply multiplied together to give a Risk Factor. The Risk Factor for each possible score, and what it means, is given below:
Score = 1: Trivial Risk
The Risk is acceptably low. No further action is needed.
Score = 2: Tolerable Risk
The Risk is acceptably low. No major additional fire precautions will be needed. Any actions from the Fire Risk Assessment which are needed to address shortcomings should be carried out.
Score = 3 or 4: Moderate Risk
The Risk needs to be reduced to a tolerable level (or lower). An action plan is needed to identify what additional fire precautions are required and identify a time period by which these are to be completed. Actions need to be prioritised so that the highest risk issues are carried out first, which may need a further, detailed assessment to be conducted.
Score = 6: Substantial Risk
Fire safety may need a significant investment of time and money because there are significant issues that must be addressed. Urgent action should be taken for premises that are occupied. For premises that are not occupied, action is needed before occupancy.
Score = 9: Intolerable Risk
The premises, or the part of the premises that has been assessed, should not be occupied until the issues that cause the risk to be at this level are addressed.
In all cases, the aim of the Fire Risk Assessment should be to reduce the Risk Factor down to the lowest level that is reasonably achievable and practicable. Fire Risk Assessment does not mean that fire hazards have to be totally eliminated, but rather that reasonable measures are needed to reduce the risk to a Tolerable (or lower) level.
The Fire Risk Assessment of a small Church has identified a number of minor issues relating to the use and storage of candles, the positioning of some combustible materials outside and the use of electrical appliances that have not been subjected to any tests or inspections.
Even though there some issues identified that need to be addressed, these are not so bad as to result in a high risk of fire starting. The category chosen for 'Liklihood' is 'Normal' (2).
Due to the size of the premises, no electrical fire alarm has been provided. There are no exit signs. There is no emergency lighting, but a number of (manyally-operated) torches have been provided. There are three fire extinguishers, which are maintained under a service contract and are of the right type and size for the premises.
If there should to be a fire, it is foreseable that a person may not know where the exits are. The lack of automatic emergency lighting may be an issue at night-time. The category chosen for 'Severity' is 'Moderate' (2).
So, Liklihood x Severity = 2 x 2 = 4 = Moderate Risk
This category means that some action is needed to address the issues noted above. However, none of these should take too much time or effort, then the assessment can be reviewed to hopefully bring it down to a Tolerable level.
Other scoring systems
This page has included an example of how to score the Likelihood and Severity of a fire, and how to determine the overall Risk. However, there are other scoring systems that may equally be used.
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