How to Prepare for a Successful Fire Safety Audit: A Step-by-Step Guide

External Fire and Safety Audits help creating and maintaining a secure workplace, that is at the forefront of organisational priorities. Beyond meeting regulatory obligations, preparing for a fire safety audit presents a unique opportunity to reinforce your organisation against potential fire hazards. 

In this comprehensive guide, we embark on a detailed exploration of the steps involved in readying your organisation for a successful fire audit

Our aim is not merely compliance; it’s a genuine commitment to ensuring the safety and well-being of everyone within your organisation.

As we unfold this step-by-step blueprint, our focus is tailored specifically for auditee organisations anticipating an audit from a third-party audit firm. 

Let’s delve into the intricacies of preparation, equipping you with the knowledge and insights necessary for a seamless and successful fire safety audit experience.

Step 1: Define the purpose of the fire and safety audit

The first step is to understand the purpose of the audit and to get the answer to the question – why is it needed?

Generally, a fire safety audit is conducted to ensure that the workplace (maybe a manufacturing unit, high-rise commercial building or a warehouse) is safe from fire hazards and that the occupants are protected in case of a fire.

The following examples illustrate this point clearly.

2012 Dhaka Garment Factory Fire:
In 2012, a devastating fire broke out in a garment factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh. 

The tragedy, which resulted in the loss of over a hundred lives, was a stark reminder of the importance of fire safety audits in manufacturing units. 

Investigations revealed that poor fire safety measures, such as inadequate fire exits and lack of proper fire extinguishing equipment, were the main contributors to the disaster. 

This incident underscores the need for thorough fire safety audits in manufacturing facilities to identify and rectify such life-threatening deficiencies.

Grenfell Tower Fire, London, 2017:
The Grenfell Tower fire in London, which claimed 72 lives, highlighted the importance of fire safety audits in residential buildings, especially high-rises. 

The fire’s rapid spread was largely attributed to the building’s cladding, which failed to comply with fire safety standards. 

This tragic event illustrates how a comprehensive fire safety audit could potentially identify risks like flammable cladding, leading to necessary corrective actions and the prevention of such disasters.

The audit will identify any potential fire hazards and recommend corrective actions.

Step 2: Identify the scope of the fire and safety audit

The next step is to identify the scope of the audit. This includes identifying the areas of the entity or unit that will be audited, the type of audit that will be conducted, and the time frame for the audit. Take a look at the following instances.

2010 Shanghai World Financial Center Fire Audit:

Following a minor fire incident, the management of Shanghai World Financial Center, one of the world’s tallest buildings, conducted a comprehensive fire safety audit. 

The scope of this audit included an assessment of fire detection and alarm systems, evaluation of fire exits and escape routes, and inspection of fire suppression systems throughout the building. 

This thorough approach ensured that every critical aspect of fire safety was covered, leading to significant improvements in the building’s fire safety standards.

Boeing Facility Fire Safety Audits:

Boeing, the aerospace giant, regularly conducts fire safety audits across its facilities. These audits focus on areas such as aircraft manufacturing hangars, storage areas for flammable materials, and office spaces. 

By clearly defining the scope to include diverse areas within its facilities, Boeing ensures a comprehensive evaluation of its fire safety measures.

It’s therefore important to communicate with the third-party audit firm to ensure that everyone is on the same page.

Step 3: Prepare for the audit

Once the scope of the audit has been identified, it’s time to prepare for the third party fire safety audit.

This includes reviewing the unit’s fire safety plan, ensuring that all fire safety equipment is in good working condition, and training employees on fire safety procedures.

It’s important to keep detailed records of all fire safety activities.

Understand the Regulatory Landscape

Before diving into preparations, it’s crucial to understand the relevant fire safety regulations that apply to your industry and location.

Familiarise yourself with local, state, and federal requirements, and ensure that your organisation complies with all necessary standards. This foundation is essential for a successful audit.

Formulate a Core Fire Safety Team within the organisation

Establish a cross functional team responsible for overseeing the fire and safety audit or fire audit preparations.

This team should include representatives from various departments, including facilities management, human resources, and health and safety.

Assign clear roles and responsibilities to each team member, creating a collaborative and coordinated effort.

Train Employees on Fire Safety

A well-trained workforce is your first line of defence against fire hazards. 

Provide comprehensive training on fire safety, including the proper use of firefighting equipment, recognition of potential hazards, and evacuation procedures. 

Regularly refresh this training to keep employees informed and prepared.

Conduct a Pre-Audit Self-Assessment

Before the official audit, conduct a thorough self-assessment to identify potential areas of improvement. Review previous audit reports, if available, and address any unresolved issues. 

This proactive approach allows you to identify and rectify potential deficiencies before the formal audit takes place.

Develop a Comprehensive Fire Safety Plan

Develop or update your organisation’s fire safety plan. This document should outline activities during normal situations as well as emergency situations. 

This plan includes procedures, emergency evacuation routes, and the roles and responsibilities of employees during a fire incident. 

Ensure that the plan is easily accessible to all employees and regularly communicated to them.