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Fire Risk Assessments – Is the system working?

Oh the irony! – a recently published news article stated that a Fire Station burnt down as it did not comply with current fire regulations!  For the benefit of those who hadn’t seen this article I’ll briefly describe what was reported.

One of the buildings at the Fire Safety College in Moreton on the Marsh burnt down destroying two fire tenders last May. The report said it took 60 fire fighters to bring the blaze under control.

As it was a Fire Safety College mainly attended by Firemen, there wouldn’t have been a shortage of help, but the press got hold of it and had a field day.  A point to note was that no-one was killed or injured in the incident, so to be fair, no legislation was actually transcended.

Apparently there was no up-to-date risk assessment, together with a couple of irregularities that would have been addressed had the assessment been carried out. A Fire Consultant was quoted as stating that the Fire Safety College’s standard should be higher than anybody else’s. I don’t know in what basis in law or professionalism he is coming from, but I suppose he is entitled to his own opinion, however misguided.

What this proves, without any doubt, is the “on-going” system that controls the use of buildings in relation to fire safety is simply is not working.

Even when it does work and the risk assessments are carried out, due to the assessors not being impartial, and in some case not having adequate knowledge, it can still result in an unsafe building.

A good friend of mine is an office manager in a building that before the recent fire safety reform would have needed a fire certificate. I thought, there may be some work here and made an approach to carry out their next risk assessment.

To my horror, the office was in my opinion, bordering upon dangerous, at the very least, a cause for concern. The floor was a large open plan with no emergency lighting or automatic fire detection. To add to this there was a 20m dead end condition that had to pass an open file storage system that had no fire separation from the only route out of the building. As if that was not bad enough, right at the extreme of the dead end condition my friend is located in an inner office!

The office does have a current risk assessment certification, but it must have been carried out by Stevie Wonder! Needless to say, this same chap will doing the risk assessment when it is due, purely because employing me would cost a considerable sum in upgrading the premises over and above my fee to make it a safe place in which to work.

However, it does not surprise me that regulations that relate to the Fire Safety are either ignored or incorrectly applied. This method of enforcement relies upon the owner and their consultant having the inclination and the knowledge to carry out their responsibility. The government’s decision to place this responsibility with the industry is irresponsible and short sighted.  I know there are good consultants and employers out there, but these are the minority and in the meantime the remainder of the country is either not interested in complying with the law or badly advised when they attempt to do so.

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