Written by Roger Chamberlain Member of the British Fire Consortium 2011/12Competency criteria in fire risk assessment remain the subject of confusion and debate. But help is on the way, writes Roger Chamberlain
Whether your feelings are, liking or loathing, risk assessments have been around for a while and will certainly be with us into the foreseeable future. Supporting health and safety legislation, risk assessments have been responsible for making employer and employee examine their workplace and working practices, thereby improving the working environment and our public places.
Unguarded machinery is unlikely, serious care is taken over working with hazardous substances, acceptable temperature and noise levels are all defined to improve the health and well-being of working people. All laudable achievements – but are we becoming a risk-averse society in the face of the possible litigation?
There certainly seems a rash of no-win, no-fee adverts from the legal services peppering the television, billboards and our newspapers. Where does this leave us?
For many, it is seeking some help. If you were to Google ‘risk assessment’ you would find thirteen million, six hundred thousand entries.
For members of the British Fire Consortium, it is a case of ensuring that, if your company offers fire risk assessments, those carrying out the assessment process are indeed ‘competent’ persons. Under The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, there is no requirement for the responsible person to be a competent assessor. However, there is a clear indication that they must make ‘a suitable and sufficient’ assessment of the risks in their premises to identify the general fire precautions which must be taken to comply with the Order.
As a consequence, the responsible person must make a decision as to whether or not they are sufficiently competent to undertake the fire risk assessment, or whether they should appoint another person to carry out the task, for example, a BFC member company.
Joint focus on needs and solutions
The Fire Risk Competency Council evolved as a result of the British Fire Consortium becoming involved with others in the fire industry who were expressing great concerns that a fundamental part of UK legislation – the requirement of carrying out a fire risk assessment – did not have any competency standards with which to work. Under the chairmanship of Iain Cox, representing the Chief Fire Officers Association and with the backing of the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG), the council meets to establish competency criteria for Fire Risk Assessors and to produce a document that will be the benchmark against which competency levels in fire risk assessment can be assessed and accredited. A draft document will shortly be available for public consultation and the BFC looks forward to hearing all input.
It was also felt that advice and assistance should be given to persons who may be appointing an assessor to carry out an assessment on their behalf. Therefore, a supporting document will be created which will be aimed at the end user (ie, the duty holder or responsible person), detailing how to choose a competent Fire Risk Assessor for their company or organisation.
The BFC is constantly aiming to provide the best possible technical advice on specific topics that are important and relevant to you and your business. What we can tell you is that Fire Officers will no longer accept tick-box risk assessments. The part that fire risk assessments play in ensuring companies and organisations to be compliant in fire safety management is a fundamental and crucial element of their infrastructure, and we, as responsible individuals working in the fire industry, need to be fully aware of the legislation and how it is enacted.
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