Remove or reduce the hazards
Having identified the fire hazards in the first step, you now need to remove those hazards if reasonably practicable to do so. If you cannot remove the hazards, you need to take reasonable steps to reduce them if you can. This is an essential part of fire risk assessment and as a priority this must take place before any other actions.
Ensure that any actions you take to remove or reduce fire hazards or risk are not substituted by other hazards or risks. For example, if you replace a flammable substance with a toxic or corrosive one, you must consider whether this might cause harm to people in other ways.
Remove or reduce sources of ignition
There are various ways that you can reduce the risk caused by potential sources of ignition, for example:
- Wherever possible replace a potential ignition source by a safer alternative
- Replace naked flame and radiant heaters with fixed convector heaters or a central heating system. Restrict the movement of and guard portable heating appliances
- Separate ignition hazards and combustibles e.g. ensure sufficient clear space between lights and combustibles
- Operate a safe smoking policy in designated smoking areas and prohibit smoking elsewhere
- Ensure electrical and mechanical and gas equipment is installed, used, maintained and protected in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions
- Check all areas where hot work (e.g. welding) has been carried out to ensure that no ignition has taken place or any smouldering materials remain that may cause fire
- Ensure that no-one carrying out work on gas fittings which involves exposing pipes that contain or have contained flammable gas uses any source of ignition such as blow-lamps or hot-air guns
- Take precautions to avoid arson. Remove or reduce sources of fuel
There are various ways that you can reduce the risks caused by materials and substances which burn, for example:
- Reduce stocks of flammable materials, liquids and gases on display in public areas to a minimum. Keep remaining stock in dedicated storerooms or storage areas where the public are not allowed to go, and keep the minimum required for the operation of the business
- Ensure flammable materials, liquids and gases, are kept to a minimum, and are stored properly with adequate separation distances between them
- Keep areas containing flammable gasses ventilated
- Do not keep flammable solids, liquids and gases together
- Remove or treat large areas of highly combustible wall and ceiling linings, e.g. polystyrene or carpet tiles, to reduce the rate of flame spread across the surface
- Develop a formal system for the control of combustible waste by ensuring that waste materials and rubbish are not allowed to build up and are carefully stored until properly disposed of, particularly at the end of the day
- Take action to avoid storage areas being vulnerable to arson or vandalism
- Check all areas where hot work (e.g. welding) has been carried out to ensure that no ignition has taken place and no smouldering or hot materials remain that may cause a fire later
The fuel hazard can also be reduced by the installation of automatic sprinkler systems or other suppression/extinguishing systems, the provision of such systems may have been a requirement of a local act or engineered solution and must be maintained.
Remove or reduce sources of oxygen
You can reduce the potential source of oxygen supplied to a fire by:
- Closing all doors, windows and other openings not required for ventilation, particularly out of working hours;
- Shutting down ventilation systems which are not essential to the function of the premises;
- Not storing oxidising materials near or within any heat source or flammable materials; and
- Controlling the use and storage of oxygen cylinders, ensuring that they are not leaking, are not used to 'sweeten' the atmosphere, and that where they are located is adequately ventilated
Remove or reduce the risks to people
Having evaluated and addressed the risk of fire occurring and the risk to people (preventative measures) it is unlikely that you will be able to conclude that no risk remains of a fire starting and presenting a risk to people in your premises.
You now need to reduce any remaining fire risk to people to as low as is reasonably practicable, by ensuring that adequate fire precautions are in place to warn people in the event of a fire and allow them to safely escape.
The rest of this step describes the fire protection measures you may wish to adopt to reduce the remaining fire risk to people.
The level of fire protection you need to provide will depend on the level of risk that remains in the premises after you have removed or reduced the hazards and risks.
Flexibility of fire protection measures
Flexibility will be required when applying this guidance; the level of fire protection should be proportional to the risk posed to the safety of the people in the premises. Therefore, the objective should be to reduce the remaining risk to a level as low as reasonably practicable. The higher the risk of fire and risk to life, the higher the standards of fire protection will need to be.
Your premises may not exactly fit the solutions suggested in this guide and they may need to be applied in a flexible manner without compromising the safety of the occupants.
For example, if the 'travel distance' is in excess of the norm for the level of risk you have determined, it may be necessary to do any one or a combination of the following to compensate:
- Provide earlier warning of fire using automatic fire detection
- Revise the layout to reduce travel distances
- Reduce the fire risk by removing or reducing combustible materials and/or ignition sources
- Control the number of people in the premises
- Limit the area to trained staff only (no public)
- Increase staff training and awareness
Note: The above list is not exhaustive and is only used to illustrate some examples of trade-offs to provide safe premises