Fire Safety

Private Landlords: Fire Risk Assessment Checklist for Sleeping Accommodation

LACORS Part B outlines the principles and methodology of fire risk assessment. This is particularly aimed at landlords, and follows the general methodology contained in HM Government Fire Safety Risk Assessment Sleeping Accommodation Guide.

The general 5 step risk assessment process is as follows:

  1. Identify the fire hazards

3 things are needed for a fire to start – a source of ignition, fuel, and oxygen. You can reduce the chances of a fire occurring by ensuring that these do not come together.

Ignition – These could include cigarettes, matches, candles, portable heaters and cooking equipment.

Fuel – anything that burns. Common sources of fuel are furniture, soft furnishings, flammable liquids, paper and waste products. It is particularly important to identify sources that could cause a fire to spread to another fuel.

Oxygen – typically in the air around us, however it can also come from other sources. For instance, certain chemicals release extra chemicals when they burn (these will be marked with an ‘Oxidising’ label), as do some fireworks.

  1. Identify people at risk

Any persons who are in and around the premises should be considered at risk, but there will be some people who require particular attention. These people who are at additional risk include:

  • People who are asleep
  • People with disabilities
  • Children
  • Employees who work alone or in isolated conditions
  1. Evaluate, remove or reduce the risks

Evaluate – To evaluate the risk of a fire occurring, look at the premises and try to identify any instances where an accident could occur. There are three main ways in which a fire could start that you should bear in mind:

  • Accidentally (e.g. by leaving on a gas hob)
  • By an act or an omission (e.g. when electrical equipment isn’t maintained)
  • Deliberately

You’ll also need to consider the risk to people within the building being able to safely escape. For instance, if a fire starts on the lower floor of a building, does it affect the escape route for those on the upper floors?

Remove and reduce

Once you have identified these risks, there are various ways that you can remove or reduce these risks. Introducing a safe smoking policy in designated areas and ensuring that combustible items are stored away from potential ignition sources are two ways that you can do this (for more, refer to pages 17-19 of the Sleeping Accommodation Guide).

Depending on the kind of sleeping accommodation in question, the fire detection and warning systems differ. However, unanimously:

The fire detection system should comply with BS 5839: Pt 6.

Have appropriate fire fighting equipment – e.g. having an adequate number of portable extinguishers around the premises – although the FRS would never advise tenants tackling a fire themselves.

Escape routes need to remain usable and hazard-free at all times.

To determine whether your current routes are adequate, you should consider:

  • The number of people in the premises
  • The age and construction of the premises
  • The escape time, and the number and complexity of escape routes/exits
  • Assisted means of escape
  • Whether lifts can be used
  • Assembly points
  • Emergency escape lighting

Are there clear signs and notices? These will include the actions to be taken in the event of a fire.

When will regular checks be carried out? E.g. escape routes and fire detection systems – these need to be carried out by a competent person

  1. Record your findings, prepare an emergency plan and provide training

When the fire risk assessment has been taken you need to:

Record details of any hazards identified, and what you will do to reduce those risks

Prepare an emergency plan for dealing with any fire situation and include this in your records.

(This must be shared with all relevant persons and be available for any enforcing authorities so that it is clear what steps must be taken)

Share your emergency plan – e.g. via notices in bedrooms up or within tenancy agreement

If there are numerous owners involved in the building, you must liaise with them to coordinate safety measures so that the working practices of one does not negatively affect the other.

  1. Review and update the fire risk assessment regularly

Finally, you should be constantly monitoring your findings to assess how effectively the measures are working. Most notably:

If there have been any significant changes to the premises or anything that suggests the assessment may be no longer valid, then you should review and revise where necessary.

Examples include: changes in how the premises are used, building alterations, reported problems or the presence of people with a disability that may affect their safe escape.

A more detailed guidance of the above 5 steps can be found in LACORS or Fire safety risk assessment: sleeping accommodation. Additionally, provide a fire safety risk assessment chart which gives some more information that you can print off and use as a checklist.