Firms should not over complicate fire risk assessments, says Norwich Union

Article date: 28 November 2008

As part of its latest Simply Safety campaign, Norwich Union, part of Aviva, is advising businesses of the importance of carrying out a fire risk assessment to avoid a disaster.

Under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order, a "responsible person" from a business should conduct such assessments. However, firms should encourage all employees to identify any risks associated with fire, according to Phil Grace, liability risk manager for Norwich Union.

"A fire risk assessment will not only identify risks to those working within the business, but also to members of the public or visitors to the premises," he said.

The warning comes following research from the insurer that 38% of offices are unaware of the requirements of the RRO, with over one third of firms failing to carry out a crucial fire risk assessment.1

"A fire poses great risks for any business with not only losses to stock, raw materials and buildings, but also the possibility that the future existence of the firm may be threatened.

"Therefore, the importance of carrying out a fire risk assessment cannot be over-emphasised, no matter how large or small the business. Not only is it a legal requirement, but lives, property and business resilience depend on it.

"A business has got to properly manage fire risks. This includes assessing fire hazards and then removing the hazards or reducing them to an acceptable level. Doing nothing is simply not an option.

"Much of a fire risk assessment is generally common sense, but obviously as premises and hazardous situations become complex, employees need to engage with the competent person for support in the process. 

"Reducing the risk of fire should be approached in the same manner as for any other hazard. A fire risk assessment should help identify potential risks, whether it is the use of flammable substances or potentially hazardous activities that are likely to give rise to ignition.

"Employers should be encouraged to tell supervisors about what has been found and what needs to be done to reduce the risk of fire. It is vital that fire prevention measures are in place, such as fire fighting equipment or evacuation procedures. Fire drills and exercises will also need practice to ensure employees understand what to do in the event of a fire. 

"There has been an upturn in the number of prosecutions being brought by the fire and rescue services against businesses that are not complying with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order, with businesses facing fines running into thousands of pounds.

"However, fear of prosecution should not be the principle motivation here. Protecting the lives of staff, as well as business property, is paramount. Fire risk assessments are a legal requirement and should be reviewed frequently.  If in doubt, the advice is to consult risk experts," said Grace.

A one-day training course on "how to conduct fire risk assessments" is available from Norwich Union Risk Services (NURS). Visit www.nurs.co.uk/ for more details. NURS offers consultancy services which include undertaking fire risk assessments and offering competent person advice.

As part of Norwich Union's Simply Safety campaign, a downloadable guide is available from www.nurs.co.uk/ offering businesses fire safety advice.

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For further information, please contact:
Alex Anderson at Staniforth, Alex.Anderson@staniforth.co.uk or 0161 919 8021/07779 162583 or Sally Leeman at Norwich Union on 01603 684225/07789 270677.

Notes to editors:

1 Research conducted by Norwich Union Risk Services in 2007, who surveyed 271 businesses at all levels across all sectors. 

Norwich Union is the UK's largest general insurer with a market share of around 15%, with a focus on insurance for individuals and small businesses.

It is a leading provider of life, pensions and investment products and one of the largest financial adviser (FA) providers. FAs provide over 70% of the company's long-term savings business in the UK.

In the summer of 2009 Norwich Union will change its name to Aviva. Aviva is the world's fifth largest insurance group and operates in 27 countries. Aviva is to become the customer brand worldwide, thus enabling the company to compete even more effectively on a global scale for the benefit of customers, staff, business partners and shareholders.

Norwich Union's news releases and a selection of images are available from Aviva's internet press centre at www.aviva.com/media.

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