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Commercial Fire Risk Assessment Checklist

by Soft2share.com
Risk Assessment and Management: A Complete Guide | British Safety Council

Accidental fires in Australian workplaces occur more frequently than people may realise. When fires get out of control, they can cause significant damage to buildings and valuable assets as well as putting people’s lives in danger. The damage caused by many fire incidents could have been prevented or significantly reduced if fire risk assessments were conducted more regularly.

Fire risk assessments help create safer commercial buildings and ultimately save lives. In this article we take a look at the importance of fire risk assessments and how they are conducted in commercial buildings.

Why is fire safety so important?

As Australia’s recent history has shown, fires put people’s lives at risk and can be incredibly damaging to infrastructure. Preventing fires in a commercial environment is extremely important, as is having the correct measures in place incase a fire occurs. Active and passive fire safety systems help protect a building’s occupants by slowing down the spread of fire and smoke and creating safe passageways for evacuation.

In Australia, commercial buildings must meet strict fire safety guidelines as set out in the Building Code of Australia. In addition to fire safety training for staff members, it is important to carry out regular fire risk assessments in commercial buildings to maximise their safety and maintain compliance with the relevant regulations.

What is a fire risk assessment?

A fire risk assessment is a procedure that helps you identify people who are at risk and minimise the potential for a fire to start and spread throughout a building. Insurance companies and local councils may request a fire risk assessment be carried out in a commercial building. Many companies also choose to include a fire risk assessment in their company policy.

What is done in a fire risk assessment?

A fire risk assessment should be carried out by a person with a good working knowledge of how fires begin and spread. Ideally, they should also have a good working knowledge of the building and the daily activities that occur inside the building.

In a fire risk assessment, the assessor will look at a number of factors including:

  • Prevention – how to prevent a fire from starting and how to recognise fire hazards in the workplace.
  • Evacuation – how occupants can safely evacuate in the case of a fire (including occupants at high risk such as the elderly or people with disability).
  • Confinement – how to prevent the spread of fire and smoke throughout the building (for example, compartmentalising the building with fire rated windows, doors and curtains).
  • Alert – how to alert occupants that there is a fire, and how to communicate safety practices during the emergency (this may include measures such as alarm systems, pre-defined escape routes and clearly signed exits).
  • Suppression – how the impact of the fire will be reduced (for example, sprinklers, fire extinguishers etc).

Why is a fire risk assessment important?

A fire risk assessment is a useful tool for ensuring that a commercial building has a robust safety policy in place. By looking closely at and improving the prevention, evacuation, suppression and alert procedures in a commercial building, the building itself and the occupants will be better protected. Fire safety should be taken seriously by commercial building owners and tenants. Undertaking regular fire risk assessments can help ensure fire safety is maintained to the highest standard.

What is the process of a risk assessment?

A fire risk assessment involves identifying fire hazards and people at risk, developing plans for a safer workplace, training staff and conducting regular reviews. The steps of a fire risk assessment are explained below.

  • Identify fire hazards

Fires occur where there is a source of ignition, fuel and oxygen. Identifying fire hazards involves looking for places where these three things may come together.

For example, a potential fire hazard would be storing papers in a cupboard with electrical wires. The paper is the fuel, and the electrical wires are the ignition as they can generate heat. With the addition of oxygen in the air, these three elements could potentially result in a fire. Appropriate measures should be taken to avoid such a situation.

  • Identify people at risk

It is important to identify which people would be at risk if a fire broke out in the building. At risk individuals could include employees, visitors, people with disability, parents with children or elderly customers.

Appropriate measures should be put in place to ensure all individuals have access to evacuation passageways. This may involve talking to employees about their specific needs in case of an emergency.

  • Evaluate and reduce risks

Once you have gathered information in steps 1 and 2, identify areas of the building that need to be improved for fire safety. This should also include evaluating fire safety systems, such as fire doors, fire exits, smoke alarms and sprinklers, to ensure they meet Australian standards as outlined in the Building Code of Australia.

  • Keep a record

All of the findings, evaluations and measures taken should be documented thoroughly and online copies should be kept. Establishing an efficient recordkeeping program for fire safety assessments is crucial for keeping the building up to date and compliant.

  • Train and communicate safety procedures

Staff should be kept well informed about the safety procedures and emergency plans in place. They should be trained on how to handle a fire emergency, including how to guide visitors and customers to safety if need be. Regular fire drills should be conducted to ensure all employees know what to do in an emergency.

  • Review your assessment

Fire risk assessments should be carried out regularly to ensure compliance with Australian fire safety standards. Review your fire risk assessment biannually and employ certified professionals for relevant procedures such as fire door maintenance.

The importance of quality fire protection systems

Commercial buildings should be equipped with the highest quality fire protection systems to ensure maximum safety for the building, the occupants and building contents. Fire protection systems may include:

  • Fire rated doors
  • Fire rated windows
  • Fire curtains and fire shutters
  • Smoke curtains and smoke baffles
  • Alarm systems
  • Sprinkler systems

When sourcing fire protection systems, be sure to choose a reputable company whose products have been rigorously tested and comply with Australian Standards.

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