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The Price of Fire Risk Assessments

In the UK Fire Safety Legislation as a result of the Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order states that those deemed to be “responsible persons” are required, by law, to ensure that their places of work are as far as possible, kept safe from the affects of fire, and that a fire risk assessment must be undertaken and reviewed to ensure this is so.

For most persons who do not have the knowledge or experience of assessing fire safety this normally means contracting or hiring a person or company who is competent to undertake the assessment, at additional cost.

There is a great deal of competition from those deemed to be “competent persons”; those who have the appropriate levels of expertise. This competition has over the years created a situation where it is possible to get a risk assessment carried out for a relatively modest sum. Many businesses and landlords will go to great lengths to find the best deal possible to save money. Some may even secretly prefer that the fire risk assessor is not so competent; who wants to receive a list of expensive corrective actions? It could even be said that there will be some who will not be too bothered about what the assessment finds, but more that they have a report. Unfortunately, the provision of fire risk assessments have become something of a commodity in some circles. Many professional persons and companies, with persons properly competent to undertake fire risk assessments, often lose out to much cheaper competition.

The real concern is that, even with a good general knowledge of fire safety, prevention and protection, there will be many who will not be equipped to properly assess more complex buildings.

Failure to have a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment in place comes at a price. Over the last year we have seen an increase in prosecutions against landlords and even fire risk assessors who failed to complete what was deemed as a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment. The penalties are high and have even resulted in imprisonment.

How the results of an assessment are recorded will play a large part in ensuring that any noncompliance is properly attended to. Where risk assessments are presented as completed forms, there may be the tendency to record findings in an abridged version with no real justification for the findings. Consequently, the information may not be sufficient to properly attend to issues. In the case of scoring systems, the situation may be even more confusing for the responsible person.

It is vital that the assessment, is complete, covers all aspects of the building pertaining to fire safety, and is clearly prepared so that action items can be understood and, better still, prioritised.  Even with the best will in the world, a completed paper based report will be filed in a cabinet and possibly no action is taken. The process for monitoring compliance needs to be robust; a difficult exercise for one large building but a nightmare if you are the responsible person for a portfolio of properties.

Irrespective of the situation choosing a fire risk assessor is not about price. Look for qualifications, experience, insurances and assurances. The long term penalties could end up outweighing any savings at the time of paying for your fire risk assessment.