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Fire Risk Assessment Reducing Risk, Preventing Harm

This article focusses on how to undertake a fire risk assessment of your workplace. It identifies basic steps to preventing a fire and keeping people safe.

Five steps to carrying out the assessment

  • Identify fire hazards
  • Identify people at risk
  • Assess, then act to eliminate or control the risk
  • Record findings, prepare an Emergency Plan and train
  • Review and if necessary, revise the plan

Identify fire hazards

Fire starts when heat (source of ignition) comes into contact with fuel (anything that burns), and oxygen (air). You need to keep sources of ignition and fuel apart.

How could a fire start? Think about electrical equipment, heaters, lighting, naked flames, hot processes such as welding or grinding and anything else that gets very hot or causes sparks.

What could burn? Think about packaging, rubbish and furniture that could all burn, just like the more obvious fuels such as gas, petrol, paint, varnish and chemicals or other dangerous goods.

lso think about wood, paper, plastic, rubber and foam. Do the walls or ceilings have hardboard, chipboard, or polystyrene? Check outside areas as well including car parks as vehicles contain a lot of fuel! Whilst you are outside you may wish to reconsider if the car park is the best place for an emergency assembly point if that is the current situation.

Prompt questions

  • Have you found anything that could start a fire?
  • Have you found anything that could burn?

Identify people at risk 

  • Isolate the fire hazard from people.
  • Reduce the fire risks using engineering controls.
  • Reduce the fire hazard risk using administrative controls
  • Use personal protective equipment

Everyone is at risk if there is a fire. Think whether the risk is greater for some because of when or where they work, such as night shift staff, or because they are not familiar with the facility, such as visitors or customers and clients. Children, the elderly or people with certain disabilities are especially vulnerable.

Prompt questions

  • Who is at risk and why?
  • Who is especially at risk and why?

Assess then act to eliminate or control the risk

Assess first, think about what you have found in steps 1 and 2: what are the risks of a fire starting, and what are the risks to people in the building or facility and to those nearby?

How can you avoid accidental fires? Could a source of heat or sparks fall, be knocked or pushed into something that would burn? Could that happen the other way round?

Protect - Take action to protect your people and facilities from fire using the hierarchy of controls

Eliminate fire risks

All controls are to be used in conjunction with an emergency alarm warning system.

Prompt questions

  • Have you assessed the risks of fire in your workplace?
  • Have you assessed the risk to staff and visitors?
  • Have you kept any source of fuel and heat/sparks apart?
  • If someone wanted to start a fire deliberately, is there anything around they could use?
  • Have you removed or secured any fuel an arsonist could use?
  • Have you protected your facilities from accidental fire or arson?
  • How can you make sure everyone is safe in case of fire?
  • Will you know there is a fire?
  • Do you have a plan to warn others?
  • Who will make sure everyone gets out?
  • Who will call the fire service?
  • Could you put out a small fire quickly and stop it spreading?
  • How will everyone escape?
  • Have you planned escape routes?
  • Have you made sure people will be able to safely find their way out, even at night if necessary?
  • Does all your fire safety equipment work?
  • Are emergency evacuation signs in position and legible?
  • Do people know how to sound the emergency alarm system and how to respond?
  • Will people know what to do and how to use equipment?
  • Is all emergency response equipment for fire regularly serviced and maintained?

Record findings, prepare an Emergency Plan and train

Keep a record of any fire hazards and what you have done to eliminate or control them.

You must have a clear plan of how to prevent fire and how you will keep people safe in case of fire. If you share a building or facility with others, you need to coordinate your plan with them.

You need to make sure your staff know what to do in case of fire, and if necessary, are trained for their roles such as an Emergency Control Organisation that includes a Chief Warden and Deputy as well as Emergency Wardens etc.

Prompt questions

  • Have you made a record of what you have found, and action you have taken?
  • Have you planned what everyone will do if there is a fire?
  • Have you discussed the plan with all staff?
  • Have you informed and trained people (practised an emergency evacuation exercise based on a fire situation and recorded how it went)?
  • Nominated staff to put in place your fire prevention measures, and trained them?
  • Made sure everyone can fulfil their role?
  • Informed temporary staff?
  • Consulted others who share a building or facility with you, and included them in your plan?

Review and if necessary, revise the plan

Keep your risk assessment and Emergency Plan under regular review. Over time, the risks may change. If you identify significant changes in risk or make any significant changes to your plan, you must tell others who share the facility and where appropriate re-train staff.

Prompt questions

Have you?

  • Made any significant changes to the facility inside or out?
  • Had a fire or near miss?
  • Changed work practices that may increase the risk of fire?
  • Begun to store dangerous goods?
  • Significantly changed your stock, or stock levels?
  • Have you planned your next fire drill?

Further guidance, especially if you have a large and/ or complex worksite may be found in Australian Standard AS 3745 Planning for emergencies in facilities


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