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Choosing a Risk Assessor

'The responsible person (RP) must make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risk to which relevant persons are exposed for the purpose of identifying the general fire precautions.....'
[Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005(FSO) - Article 9(1)].

The RP under the FSO is tasked to carry out a fire risk assessment (FRA). This, in a smaller uncomplicated premise, may be a procedure that they are confident to perform along with the guidance produced by the Welsh Government.

However, in more complicated workplaces they may not have the skills required to undertake a FRA. The RP can have help, however help should be from a competent person - 'a person is to be regarded as competent for the purpose of this article where he has sufficient training and experience or knowledge and other qualities to enable him properly to assist in undertaking the preventative and protective measures' [FSO - Article 18(5)].

This help can be from within the business or an outside contractor. Under the law the RP still retains the ultimate responsibility, and therefore they need to have confidence that any help they have is COMPETENT.

A Competent person should have the knowledge, skills and behaviour to improve performance. With regard to Fire Risk Assessment they should have:

If you feel that you require help in producing a FRA then you should choose appropriately. Any fire safety assessor that you choose should be right for your circumstances with a mix of knowledge, skills and behaviour that will enable them to produce a meaningful FRA that is suitable to the complexity of your premises and the hazards and potential risks present.

The knowledge/skill areas that need to be covered in order to produce a meaningful FRA are:

 The identification of fire related hazards
 The assessment of risk from fire
 Behaviour of fire in premises
 Applicable Legislation
 Appropriate Government Guidance and benchmarks
 Effects of fire on people and behaviour of people in fire situations
 Means of Escape
 Fire Prevention
 Fire Protection, both Passive and Active
 Management of Fire Safety
 The risk assessment process and associated paperwork.

Therefore, if you are confident on all but the risk assessment process, getting help on that part is prudent, and the help does not require knowledge of the other areas. However, it may be that the only area you are confident is the risks associated with your premises, therefore you require someone with the knowledge and experience in the other areas.

Due to the varied levels of expertise required for different premises it is difficult to define the education, knowledge and experience required of a risk assessor for a particular situation. This lack of clarity therefore makes it difficult to have a coherent strategy with regard to establishing national standards of competency in the risk assessment field. The Fire Risk Assessment Competency Council, which is an open and voluntary group of fire industry organisations have published two documents   'Competency Criteria for Fire Risk Assessors' and  'A Guide to Choosing a Competent Fire Risk Assessor'.

It is hoped that these 2 documents will form the basis of national criteria and route to establishing independent proof of competency.

When choosing help you can find companies listed in local directories. Companies that are members of registered schemes can be found at internet sites such as the Institution of Fire Engineers, Institute of Fire Safety Managers, Warrington Fire and British Approval of Fire Equipment (BAFE) (SP205 scheme) or possibly ask your insurance company, or trusted source, if they have any recommendations. This in itself may not be enough and you should;

 ask for and take up references
 examine the curriculum vitae
 look at past examples of their work, examining their FRA format and pro forma
 evidence of Quality Assurance ( e.g. BS EN ISO 9001)
 check for 3rd Party verification of the company and/or risk assessor.
As with any other service you should also compare several quotes for the help required. Another important criteria, is that the competent person should know the level and extent of their competency.

North Wales Fire and Rescue Service's Business Education Department aims to engage with the business community, in particular small and medium size enterprises, to provide advice and guidance on how to comply with the requirements of the Fire Safety Order.



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