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Fire risk assessment and documentation

The premises fire safety audit should commence with an examination of the fire risk assessment and emergency action plan. These documents underpin the rationale for the fire safety strategies within the premises. The inspector must use their professional competence to form an initial view regarding the safety case presented and decide to what extent these matters will require verification.

In the absence of a written fire risk assessment, the inspector must establish what, if any, control measures are in place.

This process will enable the inspector to gauge the extent of the responsible persons understanding of their responsibilities and provide an opportunity to educate and inform. Understanding and acceptance of responsibility should be seen as one of the primary purposes of the fire safety audit.

Documentation

A range of documentation will support any effective management system. The inspector will examine available documents to obtain evidence that effective systems are in place.

In addition to the written fire risk assessment, this evidence should include the emergency plan, test and maintenance records, staff training records, fire drill records and the company policies and procedures relating to fire.

The inspection of documents need not be exhaustive, the aim is to establish the current position, raise management awareness and assist in forming a view about how detailed the physical inspection of the premises will need to be.

Verification is completed by a physical inspection of some or all of the premises.

When the audit has been completed, a meeting with the responsible person should be held, where possible, to discuss the areas of non-compliance and the possible enforcement options available. Encouragement should be given for compliance, if appropriate, and observations should also be made to encourage the process of continual improvement.

Educating and informing responsible persons and others about their duties under the FSO is a fundamental part of the enforcement regime of the fire and rescue service.

The inspector should, where appropriate, effectively consult with the responsible person to minimise the costs of compliance for the business by ensuring that any action eventually taken is proportionate to the risks. Therefore, it is suggested that, unless immediate formal enforcement action is required, inspectors should provide an opportunity to discuss the circumstances of each case and, if possible, resolve points of difference. One method is the use of an action plan.

The aim of an action plan is to focus attention on any identified risk and to specify what preventive and protective measures are necessary to either reduce the risk to an acceptable level or eliminate the risk.

Where an action plan exists or is proposed, the relationship between the inspector and the responsible person should be viewed as a partnership. As part of this partnership, both sides agree the findings of the fire risk assessment and the projected time scale for implementation and completion of the measures identified in the action plan. These will need to be placed in order of priority for completion and may include interim measures prior to long term or permanent measures being implemented.

The responsible person must understand that by prioritising and implementing the agreed measures, they are taking steps to remedy their failures in the provisions for fire safety matters for employees and other persons who may resort to the premises, as required by the fire safety legislation.

If the measures identified in the action plan are not completed within the agreed time, the inspector may either, depending on the situation and risk, re-negotiate and agree a revised time scale or issue an enforcement notice.