What are the differences, and which should I prepare for?
Keeping your property fire safe throughout the year, whether it be residential or commercial, is something every Australian should be concerned about. This is especially true for homes and businesses in bushfire prone regions and for commercial locations in cities where fires can quickly spread. The team here at Adair Fire Audits & Certification are here to help you understand the differences between a Fire Risk Assessment and a Fire Safety Audit.
Fire Risk Assessment
This step typically happens after you have identified the fire hazards in your workplace (you can do the same in your home) and you take the time to assess the potential for those hazards to cause harm. Consider this as a chance for ‘worst case scenario’ and consider the consequences of the identified hazards such as any injuries or illnesses could result from the danger. You should also keep in mind how many people would potentially be exposed, such as staff, customers, tradesmen, and delivery people.
A fire risk assessment is a requirement by Australian law that must be carried out in all workplaces, especially places like retail businesses that are accessible to the public. Whether you are the property owner or the business owner, you are responsible for fire safety in your workplace premises and you have a duty to the public and your staff to reduce the risk of fire hazards. If you don’t feel confident in performing the assessment, you can nominate someone with a good understanding of the fire safety management systems and what could lead to a fire, what materials pose a risk and the potential risks of a fire.
Risk assessment is the process of evaluating:
- the consequences expected from an incident arising out of a hazard, e.g. a fatality, permanent disability or injury requiring medical/hospital treatment, first aid and/or time off work; and
- the probability of this incident occurring.
What is the likely severity of any injury, illness, or damage? If your building has any risk control measures already in place, whether they are sufficient to eliminate or adequately reduce the risk. As a property owner, you have three fire safety obligations under the health and safety legislation:
- Take all reasonable steps to eliminate or reduce the likelihood of a fire or explosion
- Ensure you are prepared for a fire or explosion
- Notify your health and safety regulator if a fire-related incident occurs
While there are many potential sources of a fire, we recommend looking at how your building’s waste is stored, the age and condition of the property, and the security of the premises to ensure unauthorised people are not able to access restricted areas.
Always look for changes in work practices that might require you to undertake a new risk assessment, e.g. relocating or modifying plants, change of furniture or workplace possessions
Follow this checklist to ensure you meet your health and safety obligations.
- Manage fire and explosion risks in your workplace by eliminating or minimising the risks as far as reasonably practicable.
- Introduce, maintain, and know how to use appropriate firefighting equipment.
- Develop and maintain an effective emergency plan.
- Develop and maintain effective evacuation procedures.
- Understand incident notification procedures and how to implement them when required.
Fire Safety Audit
Unlike the assessment, an audit checks that the building matches the Approved Building Design and is an annual inspection and review of Fire Safety Measures. The audit is a part of the Essential Safety Measures requirement for the building and includes a review of the building and related documentation including equipment test reports, training procedures, block plans, and more. A fire safety audit must also be completed by a registered Fire Safety Engineer who will conduct the audit in line with the Building Code of Australia and Australian Standards.
Fire Safety Audits should be completed at least once a year in accordance with the ESM. They should also be performed whenever a notable problem in any of the fire safety systems is discovered, any time your fire safety needs have changed, and even if you’re wanting to upgrade or consolidate your fire safety systems.
Your building’s approved design and occupancy permit will include a lot more than fire safety and will have details regarding the required maintenance as part of your property’s essential safety measures. The regularity of fire safety audits depends on any significant changes within the workplace and should be conducted in the event of the following situations;
- Changes to the workplace layout or structure of the building.
- An increase in the number of people in the building
- A fire incident or accident
- Hazardous substance storage is introduced or changed
- Changes to equipment and machinery
- An employee with a disability is hired
Fire safety risk assessments should be conducted in all areas of your business premises and all potential hazards should be noted and documented. Appropriate measures should then be taken to reduce the risk of fire and injuries.
What should I prepare for?
As you’ve seen as a property or business owner, fire risk assessments should be conducted semi-regularly and can be self-conducted whilst fire safety audits are a lot more intense and must be conducted by a licensed and trained professional. Both should be prepared for as the safety of your staff and customers is paramount, and you’ll want to limit the health and financial risk a fire would cause.
By conducting regular assessments, you and your staff will be better prepared and aware of any risks and potential hazards present whilst being able to identify and fix any identified dangers or shortfalls. An assessment is also a good time to nominate personnel to be responsible for workplace fire safety drills.
Preparing for an audit will ensure that things are able to go a lot smoother than they would with no preparation. Having the paperwork all organised and knowing where things are kept will help your inspector do their work without the frustration of having to search for everything on the day.
Schedule an Audit or Assessment
If this is your first time completing an assessment, it might be a good idea to contact a professional to come walk through the process with you. The team here at Adair Fire Audits & Certification are happy to help guide you along the way to ensure your property and business is fire safe.
Call us today on (02) 8004 5142 or 1300 653 490 after hours, to further discuss your fire safety needs. Visit our website for more information on our available services and locations. You can also contact us directly through our website to book your audit today or send an email to [email protected]
We look forward to hearing from you and helping you keep your property fire safe.