Risk Assessment for Accomodation Centre for Students
Facts of the case
An accommodation centre for students has had a number of fire occurrences in recent past. This has lead to a number of students needing treatment for smoke inhalation and 2 fire-fighters who suffered minor burns when they were sent into a burning flat. Due to the frequency of these fires it is conjectured that the fires are being caused by student lifestyle factors. Such repetitive incidents of fire accideents warrant a risk assessment, which has been done and given in the following pages.
Scope of the present risk assessment
Scope of this risk assessment is to identify a Fire & Rescue service ‘Integrated Risk Management Plan’ and give examples of how such plans form the basis of an effective and efficient Fire & Rescue service. Preventive measures and how the such measures would be helpful in preventing fires at the accommodation centre are also discussed. A review of implementation of measures suggested inrisk assessment forms a part of risk assessment and has been taken care of.
Need for a ‘risk assessment’ – Health & Safety legislation
Need for a risk assessment arises out of a need to take timely preventive measures and as a requirement under the applicable legislation. The Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004 (‘the Act’) received Royal Assent on July 22nd 2004 replacing the Fire Services Act 1947, with a new legislative framework to ensure that Fire and Rescue Service is better able to meet the particular challenges of the 21st Century (Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004 Factsheet, 2004).
HM Government (2005) issued “A Short Guide to Making Your Premises Safe from Fire” under Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. The order was made, under the Regulatory Reform Act 2001 replacing most fire safety legislation with one simple order in line with the government’s commitment to regulate only when necessary and in way that is more suited to the needs of modern business. It means that any person who has some level of control in premises must take reasonable steps to reduce the risk from fire and make sure people can safely escape if there is a fire.
Review of the Fire & Rescue Services Act 2004
Fire & Resce Services Act 2004 (The Act) (Factsheet 2004) puts prevention at the heart of what the Fire and Rescue Service does. For example it creates a new duty for all fire and rescue authorities to promote fire safety – and other powers to help create safer communities, particularly for the most vulnerable in society. The Act formally recognises the broader role the Service has taken on over the last 50 years, beyond its traditional fire-fighting role. This includes rescue from road traffic accidents as well as responding to other serious incidents such as major flooding and the new terrorist threat. The Act provides fire and rescue authorities with clear authority to equip and respond to specific local risks and the particular needs of their communities as identified, for example, in their Integrated Risk Management Plan. This could include co-responder schemes or other specialist activities such as rope-rescue or dealing with heath and moor land fires.
A marked shift towards prevention instead of rescue is visible in these legislations of recent origin. That is only natural given the complexities of modern life, densely polulated cities and potential for far greater damage in case a fire spreads. Further the regulatory reform (fire safety) order 2005 (2005) lays down the folowing rules:
• carry out a fire-risk assessment identifying any possible dangers and risks;
• consider who may be especially at risk;
• get rid of or reduce the risk from fire as far as is reasonably possible and provide general fire precautions to deal with any possible risk left;
• take other measures to make sure there is protection if flammable or explosive materials are used or stored;
• create a plan to deal with any emergency and, in most cases, keep a record of your findings; and
• review your findings when necessary.
The same order (2005) also makes anyone who has control of premises or anyone who has a degree of control over certain areas or systems a ‘responsible person’ and cites the following as examples.
• the employer for those parts of premises staff may go to;
• the managing agent or owner for shared parts of premises or shared fire safety equipment such as fire-warning systems or sprinklers;
• the occupier, such as self-employed people or voluntary organisations if they have any control; or
• any other person who has some control over a part of the premises.
The order further clarifies that “although in many premises the responsible person will be obvious, there may be times when a number of people have some responsibility”.
Following is a risk assessment in the standard form meant for the purpose. Standard five stepstep approach is followed for the purpose. This approach comprises of identification of hazards, who might be harmed, evaluation of risk and precautions, recording findings and implementing them followed by a review of risk assessment.
Health and Safety Executive (n.d.) has given comprehensive directions for conducting a risk assessment in its ‘Five Steps to Risk Assessment”. It is reiterated that:
“A risk assessment is simply a careful examination of what, in your work, could cause harm to people, so that you can weigh up whether you have taken enough precautions or should do more to prevent harm. Workers and others have a right to be protected from harm caused by a failure to take reasonable control measures.’
:The guidelines go on to stress the importance of risk assessment in view of the observations:
‘Accidents and ill health can ruin lives and affect your business too if output is lost, machinery is damaged, insurance costs increase or you have to go to court. You are legally required to assess the risks in your workplace so that you put in place a plan to control the risks.’
Accordingly, a five step approach suggested by HSE comprising of the following steps has been followed:
Step 1 Identify the hazards
Step 2 Decide who might be harmed and how
Step 3 Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions
Step 4 Record your findings and implement them
Step 5 Review your assessment and update if necessary
Furthermore, following definitions provided by Health and Safety Executive (n.d.) in its five step approach have been adhered to:
a hazard is anything that may cause harm, such as chemicals, electricity, working from ladders, an open drawer etc;
the risk is the chance, high or low, that somebody could be harmed by these and other hazards, together with an indication of how serious the harm could be.
Given below is a risk assessment of the premises subject to salient features enumerated above:
Risk Assessment – Record of significant findings
Risk assessment for XXX
Assessment undertaken by XXX
Completed by: XXX
Sheet number Floor/area: NN Sq. Ft
Use: Accommodation fro students
Step 1 – Identify fire hazards
Sources of ignition
Hotplate and Gas Stove in the kitchen, Room Heater, Loose electrical wiring, Burning cigarette butts.
Sources of fuel
Cooking gas, Wooden furniture, furnishings, books and household items made of synthetic materials.
Sources of oxygen
Step 2 – People at risk
Residents of the flat and those of neighbouring flats, other neighbours and all those who may get involved with rescue operations in the event of a fire.
Step 3 – Evaluate, remove, reduce and protect from risk
(3.1) Evaluate the risk of the fire occurring
(3.2) Evaluate the risk to people from a fire starting in the premises
(3.3) Remove and reduce the hazards that may cause a fire
(3.4) Remove and reduce the risks to people from a fire
High, supported by past evidence even though the hazards found are not such as to warrant a high risk categorization.
High, even though there is a fire escape, But substantial harm to the people and fire fighting personnel has been reposrted in the past waranting a high risk evaluation for the people.
Loose electrical wiring and fittings were got repaired. Curtains were gor removed from places wherever found in close proximity of flames or heated instruments. Students were educated about not throwing burning cigaretter butts carelessly on the floor and use ash trays with a little water therein to ensure extinguishing of cigarrette butts.
Students were educated to elliminate clutter for a quick escape in the event of a fire. A smoke detector has been advised and will be installed in a few days. Fire escape and passage to it are found satisfactory. One dry and one wet type fire extinguisher have been kept in the flat.
Review outcome (where substantial changes have occurred a new record sheet should be used): Reviewed and found that a smoke detector has been installed as advised further reducing the risks. Students were also found using ash trays with a little water to ensure that cigarette butts are extinguished and do not become a cause for fire accident.
(1) The risk assessment record of significant findings should refer to other plans, records or other documents as necessary.
(2) The information in this record should assist you to develop an emergency plan; co-ordinate measures with other ‘responsible persons’ in the building; and to inform and train staff and inform other relevant persons.
It may be noted that our methodology has been partly inspired by five step approach of Extra Hands Volunteer Program (n.d.), though it could not be fully adhered to as the premises in the instant case are in residential use as accommodation for students.
Strategy for reducing the number of fires
Hotplate and Gas Stove in the kitchen, Room Heater, Loose electrical wiring, Burning cigarette butts were identified as major sources which may cause fire to begin. Loose electrical wirings were got repaired and residents of the flat were educated about hazards of throwing burning cigarette butts on the floor. They assured to use ash trays with a little water to ensure that burning cigarette butts do not become a cause for fire accidents infuture.
Other hazards are such as would be presebnt in any house hold. Still the residents were advised to take extra precautions and be doubly careful about switching off electrical appliances after use and make sure that gas vents are switched to off position after use. Following this strategy will substantially reduce the number of fires even if it does not elliminate them altogether.
Fire & Rescue service ‘Integrated Risk Management Plan’
Following integrated risk management plan has been suggested to the residents of the flat to minimize damage in the now unlikely event of a fire.
· As soon as smoke detector goes off, check all the electrical appliances and look around for the source(s) of smoke and try to extinguish the fire using fire extinguishers, if required.
· If fire is not controlled, care emergency and leave the flat. Alert the neighbours before moving out of the building so that they too escape before fire acquires dangerous proportions.
· Stay composed and do exactly as advised by the fire service personnel who are sure to be there soon after reporting.
How such plans help?
Integrated risk management plans are back bone of an efficient fire and reswcue service. Once the people at risk understand the plan and are made to follow it in an emergency, the damage to life and property is far lesser. It curtails the panic, and helps people at risk retain their composure. If the affected people do not yield to panic, it is half the battle won for members of the rescue team as they can then go about their business uninterrupted by panic reactions.
Without such a plan, the residents are likely to yield to panic, for example start crying or creating a stampede causing avoidable loss of life or physical damage to others. Hence the importance of a risk management plan needs to be underlined and is much stressed by the fire and rescue department.
The risk assessment and the measures suggested and implemented form a part of Fire & Rescue Service Integrated Risk Management plan. It was achieved in a cost effective manner as its major component was training and educating the students residing at the accommodation. The measures suggested will not only act as a preventive to fire accidents in future but also ensure that there is minimum loss to property and people in the unlikely event of a fire accident.
Extra Hands Volunteer Program (n.d.), “Sample Risk Assessment Template” (online) available from http://www.docstoc.com/docs/7310149/Sample-Risk-Assessment-Template
Health and Safety Executive (n.d.), “Five Steps to Risk Assessment” (online) available from http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg163.pdf
Health and Safety Executive (n.d.), “Example Risk Assessment for Maintenance of Flats” (online) available from http://www.hse.gov.uk/risk/casestudies/flats.htm
HM Government Fire Services Act 2004 Factsheet (2004), “Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004 Factsheet” (online) available from www.legislation.hmso.gov.uk/acts/acts2004/20040021.htm
HM Government, Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (2005), “A Short Guide to Making Your Premises Safe from Fire” (online) available from www.firesafetyguides.communities.gov.uk