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If you are the Responsible Person for your workplace, and have been reading about your fire safety responsibilities and the procedure for carrying out your Fire Risk Assessment, you may well be wondering just how you are going to find the time needed to get your organisation where it needs to be in terms of fire safety.
There is an argument that if you don't have the experience to tell a heat detector from a smoke detector or tell a fire resistant door from an ordinary one, then you can't be classed as a Competent Person and shouldn't be doing the Fire Risk Assessment.
That is a perfectly valid argument, and certainly one that a fire safety professional would put forward. While reputable Fire Consultants will certainly know that an intumescent strip is not something you will see in a Soho Club, an in depth knowledge may not be essential to undertake a reasonable fire risk assessment of a straightforward premises. However, I do believe there is some merit in the argument that a challenging assessment may be better left to a professional, particularly if you are responsible for large, complex premises. The fact is that you don't know what you don't know, which can make if tricky to judge your own ability to do it.
When I first had to do a Fire Risk Assessment I paid a firm of Health and Safety Consultants to do the first one, just to make sure nothing was missed and that I had a sound basis from which to proceed myself in the future. I think this is a good approach if you are in any doubt
If your workplace is relatively small and straightforward, I think anyone who applies some common sense and follows the guidelines can carry out a Fire Risk Assessment.
Whether or not you feel competent to carry out your Risk Assessment yourself, the other main argument for using Fire Consultants is that it will save you a lot of your precious time. You need to weigh up the advantage of freeing yourself of that time, against the cost of paying someone else to do the work.
A Fire Consultant can be particularly useful if you are responsible for shared occupancy premises. Someone is going to have to co-ordinate all the Responsible Persons, issue instruction to the various organisations about action they need to take in order to comply, etc. It can sometimes be useful to use an 'objective expert' to carry out this role, particularly if there may be changes required which will not be well received.
If you are looking to spend money on things like a new fire alarm system or new fire extinguishers, it can make sense to get objective advice from an experienced consultant. The alternative is to approach the specialist suppliers, but the danger with that is that they are more likely to make recommendations based on whatever it is they happen to provide.
Any fire safety consultants interested in being featured on this site should contact me.