An individual fire risk assessment for each resident in a care home is essential for their own safety and the safety of other residents and staff.

Guidelines from Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service

Following a number of incidents in Warwickshire, we have written to residential care homes to highlight some critical fire safety issues. The key points of this letter are as follows.

  • The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 requires the responsible person to identify persons at risk as part of the fire safety risk assessment process for the premises and to take action to remove or lower the risk.

  • A competent person should work with the resident and their family to assess the risk of smoking unaided.

  • The assessment should consider the resident’s mental and physical capacity for smoking and the risk to other residents and staff,  along with the need for a manager to supervise.

  • Any risk should be recorded and considered along with the resident’s care plan, other assessments and personal evacuation plans.

  • This is critical where residents are known to be smokers and may have lighters and matches as these add greatly to the risk of starting a fire.

From this information, care and sheltered home operators and other responsible persons must identify the appropriate control measures and equipment that is needed, to best manage the risk of fire and protect individuals at greater risk. These could include:

  • supervision of smoking, fire-retardant nightwear and bedding, or the removal of lighters and matches

  • additional smoke detection and Telecare systems

  • water mist systems.

These measures should all be recorded in the significant findings of the fire risk assessment and regularly reviewed, particularly where there is a decline in the cognitive ability or mobility of the resident.

Regulation and enforcement

When a Fire Safety Inspecting Officer visits your premises, they will look for evidence that fire hazards (including hazards from smoking) have been taken into account and that you have measures in place to control these hazards.

Ideally, fire hazards will be removed, but when removal is not possible, the officer expects that the risk will be mitigated by other means, such as those listed above. With regard to any enforcement action under the Fire Safety Order, the officer will not take action in respect of the issues referred to above if evidence confirms appropriate steps have or are being taken, and that suitable safety measures are in progress.

Primary authority partnerships

If your business is in a primary authority partnership with a fire and rescue service for fire safety, please contact your primary authority for further guidance and advice.

Individual smoking risk assessment guidance

To save lives a smoking risk assessment must be carried out for individuals who smoke.

The assessment should be carried out by a competent person, involving the resident and their family. It should consider the resident’s mental and physical capacity for smoking unaided. It should consider risk to other residents and staff, and identify physical precautions, as well as management arrangements such as supervision.

The following should be considered when implementing control measures.

  • Residents should not be permitted to smoke in bedrooms unless the risk is identified as low and the bedroom is suitably equipped.

  • Do residents smoke in bed or a chair? Location of smoke detector and flammability of clothing, bed linen and furniture need to be considered. Do they have fire retardant bedding?

  • Are cigarettes lit with a match or a lighter? How do residents access their lighters?

  • How is access to cigarettes and lighters controlled? Have the family been informed of arrangements if they are not to be given directly to the residents?

  • Supervision – will someone else light the cigarette? Will anyone stay with the resident while they smoke (Health and safety at work – will need to sign a form to say they agree to this), how often is the resident checked if they smoke alone and is it enough? Do the arrangements change at night?

  • Are sprinklers or some alternative fire suppression arrangements required?

  • Is there portable fire extinguishing media nearby and if so, are staff trained to use it?

  • Are there appropriate deep ashtrays? Are they emptied regularly?

The following should be considered when reviewing and revising the risk assessment:

  • Who is responsible for reviewing the risk assessment?

  • What reporting mechanisms are in place for near misses/accidents/a need for review of the risk assessment?

  • Have care assistants and managers had enough training and information provided to be able to monitor, report and review the risk assessment effectively?

  • Regular programmed reviews of the risk assessments should be taking place.