Risk Recognition

The importance that ‘risk recognition’ and good ‘risk management’ holds:


First a general understanding of responsibility:

The FS RRO 2005 Act has superseded the age old ‘fire certificate’ where the Local Authority fire officer inspected your building for worthiness and, where deemed satisfactory, issued a fire certificate. The onus now rests with you, the owner of the building, its tenant/s and sub-letters to appoint and train  ‘Responsible Persons’ to coordinate and cooporate to conduct appropriate fire risk assessments, action any ‘significant findings’ or non-conformities and produce an emergency evacuation plan – for further information see Fire Safety Legislation, RRO Guidance and Compliance [ CLICK ]


Unfortunately a flawed belief, held by many owners/employers and managers, is the mistaken idea that the lengthy absence of incident means that safety provisions are working, when usually the real reason is not good practice but sheer good luck. Those appointed ‘Responsible Persons’ must make themselves fully appreciative of their unconditional responsibilities. They must avail themselves of the Fire Safety Legislation, relevant RRO Guidance Notes, the Disability Discrimination Act, Disability Equality Duty legislation and all relevant Health & Safety laws. They must also ensure that their own competency and is adequate. They must be in a position to provide staff instruction and training or appoint competent help and seek out expert consultation where needed.


What is risk?

Risk is the probability that a hazard could, under certain influences, become an incident or disaster. A hazard that is isolated, on its own is not necessarily dangerous but, where it comes together with an action, mixes with a catalyst or is handled inappropriately, the probability is that the risk is likely to take on disastrous proportions.


When recognised, it is necessary to remove or manage the hazard to reduce the risk. Risk management not only helps to prevent disasters, it also helps us to develop sustainable risk management and a quality system to prevent harm to people and damage to the environment for the long term.


Generally risk, as a whole, is managed in the form of autonomic self preservation. Crossing a road we look both ways and we wouldn’t think of plugging in a kettle with wet hands or using a hair dryer whilst still in the bath.  Texting while driving – now there’s a different matter. Sometimes people need protection from themselves. Maybe texting is not the best example in the world to use here, but washing one’s hands under a scalding tap, charging one’s cell-phone under the pillow while sleeping, discarding a battery in the office waste bin, present a real risk that is less well known.


So far so good, but how can we recognise a risk in the workplace that is legislated for and must be addressed?  Accepting that you are aware of the fire safety precautions and preventive measures that are available to you: firstly, where appropriate, it is essential that these precautions and measures are actually in place within the workplace. It then becomes clear to see what could be missing, not functioning properly or defective; and don’t forget the often recognisable known causes of fire/incidences and poor housekeeping that must always be looked for.


Any infringement and non-compliance with the FS RRO, H&S, DDA and DED Acts also carries a significant risk. When reviewing the way in which you control a risk it will entail looking afresh and in a more structured way at that risk. Is is necessary to weigh if the controls you have in place properly manage the risk. This must also take account of amendments or additions to FS RRO, H&S, DDA and DED Acts. For example subtle changes in the workplace are likely to warrant changes to your existing policies; to mention but a few -  


We also need to be aware of what is a significant risk

A significant risk can be better understood as ‘a high probability risk likely to have a significant impact when triggered’. The risk with high scores for both its likelihood of occurrence and its potential impact to the building, people in the premises and corporate responsibility and survivability must be addressed and managed to either remove it or reduce it to an acceptable level.


How to evaluate the level of risk and likelihood of occurrence

Risk analysis is based upon the very real foundation of nationally gathered statistics. These stats are correlated from information gathered from actual events, its cause, the damage, cost and end effect. Therefore the potential for a risk to become a significant disaster for your company must be initially weighted against the backdrop of it’s likelihood of occurrence. As in previous years, the main cause of fires in buildings in 2007/8 (offices, shops, factories, warehouses, places of assembly etc) was faulty electrical appliances and leads. These represented 32% of all severe structural fires, a total of 6,000 – a similar proportion to 2006/7 period (6,100). Second to this, misuse of equipment and machinery was listed as the cause of 3,200 fires in the UK in the same period. It by no means finishes here as actual cause, no matter its likelihood of occurrence, will always be pertinent and high risk to certain types of business.


Disaster Planning -

Resilience, environmental and disaster management

For practical purposes, ‘resilience’ is defined as “the positive ability of an organisation or company to adapt itself to the consequences of a catastrophic failure caused by a Chemical, Biological, Radiological or Nuclear (CBRN) accidental release or an unconventional terrorist attack”.


A man-made event or release, or terrorist attack does not have to be large scale to be catastrophic to your company. Again, its frequency of occurrence and distance from susceptible areas might imply that the likelihood of it happening or affecting your business does not warrant such a plan. The potential and risk of natural and man-made disasters can be, to some extent, measured against past history and a subset which relates to deliberate acts or sabotage. This involves an assessment of ‘means and intention’ by UK and worldwide security services. Its true that if a CBRN incident occurs, its impact will depend largely on the location of your premises, the proximity of other high risk buildings and major sources of potential contamination such as petroleum, chemical, pathogen, nuclear etc.  


The point here is to heighten reader awareness as to Government, Local Government and corporate resilient plans already in place, and, in the event of an incident, the affect that they can have on day to day trade and the running of your business.  


Environmental management law is currently the fastest growing area of all major European safety legislative proposals, constantly expanding the scope of existing environmental liability. In a world of ever increasing environmental protection regulations, the impact of environmental issues has fast become a proactively managed concern. Central government is committed to advise and contribute to the delivery of the UK climate change programme; to address the causes and effects of climate change to secure maximum benefit for the community at large and globally.


To comply with relevant EU and UK statutory environmental obligations, environmental due dilligence and associated environmental policies and initiatives, it will be necessary for all companies to work closely with employees, contractors, suppliers, clients and the community to develop and implement agreed environmental initiatives. A written environmental impact assessment and environmental management policy can help a business to adhere to legislation by providing guidelines for improving environmental performance and in turn gaining social, economic and environmental benefits.


Business Continuity Planning

Disaster response, recovery and review:

The civil contingencies act 2004 requires local authorities to provide advice and assistance to business and voluntary organisations on business continuity management in the event of disaster.  Business continuity is all about responsible management. It can make a premise a safer place to work in and add to financial security.


Disasters happen when least expected. However the associated risks can be considered in advance and, instead of meeting the problem on a wing and a prayer, constructive plans can be put in place to mitigate the situation were it to happen.


The first step towards a business continuity plan has to be an acceptance by the boss or the board of directors and senior managers. Once agreed upon, a steerage group will need to research just what is required.  The real judgement call is to keep the risk assessment real, practical and workable.  A consultancy firm may be the first port of call and approached with a view to outsourcing business continuity management (BCM); or they may take the initiative of keeping it in-house. Either way the main resource BS 25999-1:2006 is a code of practice that takes the form of guidance and recommendations. It establishes the process, principles and terminology of BCM, providing a basis for understanding, developing and implementing business continuity within an organisation and will help to provide confidence in business-to-business and business-to-customer dealings.


Further reading - Risk Assessment


Adapted from the e-Book -  ‘Responsible Person/Fire Marshal Duties