Why is a Fire Risk Assessment necessary?

It is the legal responsibility of an employer, owner, managing agent, or other people in control of a building, or liable for matters under their control or contractual obligations within that building, to arrange for a fire risk assessment to be carried out. The absence of which is an offence punishable by law and could result in unlimited fines and/or up to 2 years in prison.

PAS 79 - Recent Revisions

PAS 79: 2012 was originally published in 2005; it was revised in 2007, 2012 and more recently in 2020. The most widely adopted code of practice for fire risk assessment, its 2020 update splits it into two separate documents, PAS 79-1 covering 'Premises Other Than Housing' and PAS 79-2, (currently under review) which will deal specifically with 'Housing Premises'.

The new documents give more guidance on the consideration of external wall construction and cladding whilst taking into account the knowledge that arose from the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower in London in 2017.

Other notable changes:

  • Technical content subject to amendment considering the experience from the use of the 2012 document.
  • Recognition of pre-occupation fire safety assessments.
  • There is a greater emphasis on the competence of fire risk assessors and reference to future competence related standards.
  • New British Standards have been incorporated into the document.

PAS 9980 is currently under review and will highlight further recommendations for fire risk appraisal and assessment of cladding of blocks of flats and external wall construction.

The Basics of PAS 79

PAS is an acronym for Publicly Available Specification. The purpose of PAS 79 is to lay out a specific methodology to be used for conducting a fire risk assessment. Although not originally a British Standard, the BSI (British Standards Institution) has further developed and published it.

The focus of PAS 79 is to ensure that all required information about a fire risk assessment and its findings are recorded. The specific need to carry out fire risk assessments and the documentation of all significant results from the assessments are crucial to existing fire law.

PAS 79 lays out a prescriptive method to carry out fire risk assessments. It's intended to produce a basic, qualitative assessment of risk. It provides a service to individuals, and professionals, like fire risk assessors. If your consultant uses the PAS 79 approach, you can be sure that anyone undertaking a fire risk assessment follows a trusted methodology that includes a comprehensive report that will cover all the areas of fire safety.

Alternate methodologies, like quantitative risk assessments, can be used in specific circumstances. The PAS 79 approach is a systematic evaluation covering many factors that decide fire hazard, ranging from any likelihood of fire to the actual consequences of one occurring.

There Are Nine Steps Outlined In PAS 79

STEP 1:
Obtain information/data about the building. Include all processes carried out within the structure. Take into consideration the people either present or who are likely to be.
STEP 2:
Identify the fire hazards and the means for their removal or control.
STEP 3:
Assess the potential of a fire.
STEP 4:
Determine any fire protection measures already present.
STEP 5:
Obtain related information regarding fire safety management.
STEP 6:
Assess the most likely consequences to individuals if a fire occurs.
STEP 7:
Assess the overall risk of fire.
STEP 8:
Formulate and document an action plan.
STEP 9:
Define a date to review the fire risk assessment.

PAS 79 includes a format for reporting the records of a fire risk assessment. This is a simple Pro-forma style, which lays out a concluding action plan that provides recommendations that can confirm that any necessary items were taken into consideration. The Chief Fire Officers' Association deems this method of documentation as a suitable format for recording the findings of significance in a fire risk assessment.

Can Fire Risk Assessments be Improved?

There are software products on the market, which offer different methods of logging fire risk assessments. However, most fire risk assessment applications produce some version of the PAS 79 Pro-forma. There is nothing wrong with a Pro-forma; it's a great start, but what about capturing the nuances that occur?

Where do you record a hazard that has compliant and non-compliant occurrences in differing areas of the building or where there are similar questions that will duplicate findings and actions? At Risk Warden, we believe that Risk Assessors should log these occurrences as they walk around the building in real-time.

The Risk Warden software is flexible; you can create templates bespoke to your requirements or use one of the pre-installed templates based on PAS79 and edit it to your needs. Ditch the paper Pro-forma and go digital; Risk Warden can help you assess and manage your risk without the complicated, lengthy process; let us do the work!

Start creating your PAS 79 compliant fire risk assessments today and sign up for a free Risk Warden account to experience just how easy it can be.