Fire Risk Assessments:
The scope of a fire risk assessment needs to be relevant to the nature of the premises and can change from block to block. Here, we will concentrate on types of risk assessments for purpose built blocks of flats. There are, in principle, four different types of fire risk assessment that can be carried out for a purpose-built block of flats. They differ in the extent to which the building is inspected.
Type 1 – Common parts only (non-destructive)
A Type 1 fire risk assessment is the basic fire risk assessment required for the purpose of satisfying the Fire Safety Order.
The inspection of the building is non-destructive. But, as well as considering the arrangements for eans of escape and so forth, the fire risk assessment includes examination of at least a sample of flat entrance doors. It also considers, so far as reasonably practicable, the separating construction between the flats and the common parts without any opening up of construction. However, in this Type of fire risk assessment. Entry to flats beyond the area of the flat entrance door, is not involved.
Where there are demountable false ceilings in the common parts, it may be appropriate to lift a sample of readily accessible false ceiling tiles. In addition, it will normally be appropriate to open a sample of service risers, provided access is practicable at the time of inspection. Unless there is reason to expect serious deficiencies in structural fire protection, such as inadequate compartmentation or poor fire stopping, a Type 1 inspection will normally be sufficient for most blocks of purpose-built flats. Where doubt exists in relation to these matters, the action plan of a Type 1 fire risk assessment may recommend that one of the other types of fire risk assessment be carried out or that further investigation be carried out by specialists. (However, this should not be a generic recommendation of all Type 1 fire risk assessments; the recommendation should be based on identification of issues that justify reason for doubt.)
Type 2 – Common parts only (destructive)
The scope and objectives of a Type 2 fire risk assessment are generally similar to those of a Type 1 fire risk assessment, except that there is a degree of destructive inspection, carried out on a sampling basis. This will usually necessitate the presence of a contractor for the purpose of opening up construction and making good after the inspection. In order to check the integrity of separating construction, the areas in which destructive inspection is carried out might sometimes include a sample of flats. However, because of the nature of the work, this can often only be carried out in vacant flats.
A Type 2 fire risk assessment is usually a one-off exercise, which is carried out only if there is good reason to suspect serious structural deficiencies that could lead to spread of fire beyond the flat of fire origin. The age of the block alone is not generally sufficient to warrant a Type 2 inspection. The need for a Type 2 fire risk assessment may sometimes be identified in a Type 1 fire risk assessment, but should not simply be recommended as a matter of course.
Type 3 – Common parts and flats (non-destructive)
A Type 3 fire risk assessment includes the work involved in a Type 1 fire risk assessment, but goes beyond the scope of the FSO (though not the scope of the Housing Act). This risk assessment considers the arrangements for means of escape and fire detection (i.e. smoke alarms) within at least a sample of the flats. Within the flats, the inspection is non-destructive, but the fire resistance of doors to rooms is considered. Measures to prevent fire are not considered unless (e.g. in the case of maintenance of the electrical and heating installations) the measures are within the control of, for example, the landlord.
A Type 3 fire risk assessment may sometimes be appropriate for rented flats if there is reason to suspect serious risk to residents in the event of a fire in their flats. (This might be, for example, because of the age of the block or reason for suspicion of widespread, unauthorised material alterations). This type of fire risk assessment will not be possible in the case of long leasehold flats, as there is normally no right of access for freeholders.
Type 4 – Common parts and flats (destructive) A Type 4 fire risk assessment has the same scope of work as a Type 3 fire risk assessment, except that there is a degree of destructive inspection, in both the common parts and the flats, carried out on a sampling basis. This will usually necessitate the presence of a contractor for the purpose of opening up construction and making good after the inspection. However, the nature of the work is such that, often, destructive inspection within flats can only be carried out in those that are vacant. This is the most comprehensive fire risk assessment but will only be appropriate in limited circumstances – such as when a new landlord takes over a block of flats in which the history of works carried out is unknown and there is reason to suspect serious risk to residents from both a fire in their own flats and a fire in neighbours’ flats.
Note: Before destructive inspection is to be carried out, the risk of disturbing asbestos should be considered (e.g. by examination of the asbestos register).
There is no single right or wrong way of carrying out a fire risk assessment. The important issue is that the scope is appropriate and that the relevant fire safety measures are properly examined. Traditionally, guidance has referred to the ‘five steps’ (link attached below) to risk assessment. This is the approach outlined in the HM Government guide ‘Fire safety risk assessment: sleeping accommodation’ (link attached below).
More detailed guidance on the steps involved in carrying out a fire risk assessment are set out in the British Standards Institution publicly available specification, PAS 79 (‘Fire risk assessment: guidance and a recommended methodology’). PAS 79 sets out nine separate steps in the fire risk assessment process). However, it is stressed that many other approaches are equally acceptable.
If the responsible person employs five or more people in the organisation (regardless of where they are employed to work), the significant findings of the fire risk assessment must be documented. (Under certain circumstances, this can be required where less than five persons are employed.)
The minimum information that must be recorded in the above circumstances comprises:
• the measures that have been taken, or are in place, to satisfy the FSO
• the measures that will be taken to achieve compliance (the action plan)
• any group of persons identified by the fire risk assessment as especially at risk.
Currently, there is no legal requirement to use any particular style or format for recording the
findings of a fire risk assessment. (DCLG guidance and PAS 79 contain templates that can be used, but are simply examples, and other formats can be equally acceptable.)
It is important to understand the risk profile of the buildings you are responsible for and to be certain that you are adhering to the Fire Safety Order (RRFSO 2006). Below are a number of links covering building types and uses and the FSO to help you better understand what is expected of you, who the overall responsible person is and those who may be deemed as competent persons.
Archway Consultants with formal training and many years of experience have assessed many hundreds of buildings. We have also worked with organisations to help them better manage their stock by working with them to set up policies and procedures that offered compliancy and efficiency.
If you require guidance or require a Fire Risk Assessment to be carried out on any of your buildings then contact the Archway team by using the ‘contact us’ on-line form, or by going to the TEAM tab and contacting one of the senior team members directly. Alternatively, you can call us on our freephone number. We look forward to hearing from you.
Be assured, the Archway Consultancy team are qualified professionals and hold memberships to their relevant professional organisations. For more details on any of our services use the contact us form or email one of the team directly, or call us on the freephone number. We are always happy to help.