Building Fire Safety Risks: 5 steps from Negligence to Management

The nature of Building Fire Safety requirements and risks are changing across the world. It’s getting unexpected and their effects are becoming more profound. Risks need to be taken more seriously. Here is how to do it.

Building Fire Safety related risks pose a requirement of being regularly assessed and understood, particularly for Commercial and High Rise Building Fire Safety risks.

The risk of ‘Fire’ has been ranked seventh, by India Risk Survey 2022 Report – FICCI & Pinkerton. According to NCRB (National Crime Records Bureau), a total of 10,037 cases of fire accidents were reported in India in 2019, with 441 persons injured and 10,915 people killed.

The cause-wise analysis of fire accidents concluded that 42.1% of deaths were related to building fire and accidents in residential buildings.

After road accidents & drowning, accidental fires cause most unnatural deaths in India.

Most of the High Rise Building Fire Safety related accidents have been reported (Other than residential buildings) in factories, commercial buildings, hospitals and schools. Business leadership is expected to review building fire safety requirements and fire risk-mitigation strategies in order to create a secure business environment.

This strategy should be in line with the overall organizational HIRA Safety. It can be achieved by covering the following milestones:

Milestone 1: Management attention and ownership towards fire risk
Milestone 2: Conduct a detailed Building Fire Safety Risk Assessment

Step 1: Building Fire Safety – Identify the hazards

Look for sources of heat, fuel & oxygen which together might lead to a fire.

In the case of building fire safety, one needs to start by identifying the sources of the following:

Ignition such as naked flames, electric sparks, heaters or some commercial processes
Fuel such as built-up waste, display materials, textiles or overstocked products
One should also consider what existing measures are in place to control the building fire safety related hazards.
High Rise Building Fire Safety Requirements

Step 2: Identify the people at risk

One shall need to identify anyone who may be affected during any building fire, such as:
People working near to fire hazards
People working alone or in isolated areas (i.e. Roof spaces or store rooms)
Maintenance staff, contractors, passers-by
People present outside normal working hours such as cleaners & security guards
Visitors and members of the public

Individuals & groups who may be especially at risk, e.g. young or inexperienced people, people with mobility or sensory impairment, pregnant women, children or parents with babies, older people or infirm people etc.

Step 3: Evaluate, remove, reduce and protect from fire risk

This involves evaluating the level of risk in one’s premises.
Risk of a fire occurring
Risk to people from fire
Remove or reduce building fire hazards
Remove or reduce the risks to people (building occupancy)
One should remove or reduce any fire hazards within the building, where possible and reduce any risks one has identified. For example:
Replace highly flammable materials with less flammable ones
Make sure to separate flammable materials from sources of ignition
Have a no smoking policy
When one has reduced the risks as far as possible, he must assess any risk that is left and decide whether there are any further measures he needs to take to make sure to provide a reasonable level of fire safety. The evaluation of risk will take account of the fire risk assessor’s opinion of the likelihood of fire, the extent of injury that could occur and the number of people who could be affected.

Step 4: Building Fire Protection – Record, plan, instruct, inform & train

It is always good practice to record the significant findings of the Fire Risk Assessment, the steps that one has already taken and those that he plans to take in order to reduce the risk.

In many cases, the law requires that the significant findings of the fire risk assessment and details of those persons especially at risk are recorded.

Record significant findings and actions are taken to remove/reduce the building fire safety risks
Develop and implement an appropriate emergency plan for the building
Inform and instruct relevant persons on the actions to be taken in the event of a building fire
Deliver training to building employees as well as occupants, particularly those with specific duties

Step 5: Building Fire Safety – Regularly review the fire risk assessment

Whenever one has cause to consider it is no longer valid, e.g. after a significant incident or “near miss”
In case of a significant change in the workplace, e.g. changes to plant, equipment, processes, or substances used leading to change in fire load, etc.
If there has been a significant change in the number, character or needs of persons who use the building fire safety related protective measures
The risk assessment should identify a specific range of protective measures that are appropriate for the particular type of building premises and usage of the premises.

Did You Know:

All buildings should be classified, according to the use or the character of occupancy in one of the following groups :

Group A   Residential
Group B   Educational
Group C   Institutional
Group D   Assembly
Group E   Business
Group F   Mercantile
Group G   Industrial
Group H   Storage
Group J    Hazardous

Ref: Indian Standard – IS : 1641 Code Of Practice For Fire Safety Of Building (General): General Principles Of Fire Grading And Classification

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Category:  Blog

Tags: Audit, Safety, Safety Audit 

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