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
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.
Identify people at risk
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.
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.
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.
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.
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