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Knowledge Share: Fire Risk Assessments for Blocks of Flats

Feb 20, 2023

Fire safety of blocks of flats has been in the news a lot over the last couple of years. Since the Grenfell tragedy, fire safety has been a hot topic. Unfortunately, 72 people lost their lives and the tragedy could have been avoided. New legislation has come into place and standards for fire safety in flats is improving considerably. It is vital, if you own or manage a block of flats that you have an up to date fire risk assessment in place.  This should be carried out by a competent person who has been third party accredited by organisations such as The Institute of Fire Safety Managers (IFSM). The assessor should have a good understanding of the relevant regulations and understand the importance of considering the make up of the external walls as part of the fire risk assessment (FRA).

There are four main types of fire risk assessments and this blog is concerned with explaining more about these and the fire safety requirements for blocks of flats. It is very important to appreciate the importance of managing fire safety in blocks of flats and making sure that the person(s) carrying out the assessments should be trained and competent professionals. There is no place for an amateur approach to fire safety.

JCH Safety provide expert fire risk assessments for blocks of flats across Leamington, Coventry, Birmingham and the wider West Midlands. If you are responsible for fire safety for a block of flats, we can assist you to manage your fire safety requirements.

Do you need a fire risk assessment for a block of flats?

Yes, blocks of flats DO require an up to date fire risk assessment. These are normally carried out on an annual basis. JCH Safety provide both Type 1 and Type 3 fire risk assessments for blocks of flats.

If your building has two or more dwellings and a communal area, you require a fire risk assessment to be carried out.

What are the different types of fire risk assessments?

Type 1: These cover the common parts of a block of flats such as the stairwells, landings and reception areas. It is a non-destructive survey, meaning no damage will occur to your property during this type of survey as surfaces are not penetrated. This is the most common type of fire risk assessment for a block of flats. It should also offer a commentary on the condition of fire doors as well as the external walls and surfaces. It should highlight if an Fire Risk Appraisal of External Walls (FRAEW) is required. This is often sufficient to meet the requirements of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRFSO) and also The Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022.

Type 2: This covers the same as a Type 1 survey but it is destructive. This means that there is a degree of destructive inspection needs to be carried out. This is done to sample the structure of the property to ensure that it is in fire safe condition. A Type 2 inspection would normally only take place if there are obvious concerns relating to the construction of the property or if it is recommended in a Type 1 survey.

Type 3: This covers the same as a Type 1 survey but it goes further. It does not involve a destructive appraisal like a Type 2, but it does include an appraisal of the inside of the flats themselves. This type of survey often exceeds the requirements of the RRFSO. The importance of this type of inspection is to consider if the building protects residents from fires that might occur inside or outside of the individual dwelling. It has a place within the House Act 2004 which is focused on ensuring the fire safety of residents in individual dwellings and the relevant escape routes. It is also concerned with the reduction of fire risk in a building as a whole. Type 3 assessments cover items including the compartmentation, fire detection and fire resistance of internal doors also. Type 3 assessments are often required for blocks of flats in renovated buildings, such as in old houses that have been converted to flats, and for rented flats where there is reason to suspect a serious risk to residents from the outbreak of a fire. It may be requested due to the findings of a Type 1 or Type 2 assessment.

Type 4: These type of inspections cover everything indicated in a Type 3 survey. They go further though, and involve a level of destructive investigation of the fabric of the building. It is the most comprehensive type of fire risk assessment available but it is only required in exceptional circumstances, such as if major fire safety issues are suspected. It is a major piece of work that causes significant damage to a building to allow the structure of the building to be inspected. It requires a building contractor to open up the building and then to make good to fire safe standards after. In addition, endoscopes are used to investigate the structure where possible and this can help to mitigate the level of destruction required.

How do I know what type of fire risk assessment I need?

Give us a call. Determining the required type of FRA can often require a conversation with a competent fire risk assessor whose experience can identify the type of FRA required. You would normally start with a Type 1 FRA for most buildings unless there is reason to suspect there are issues with the property. When we advise our clients as to the type of FRA we recommend we normally ask to see previous FRAs if they are in place and find out more about the building such as it’s age and when major alterations have taken place. If there isn’t an up to date FRA in place, it can be good practice to carry out a Type 3 inspection to ascertain the overall condition of the property, particularly if the building is an older premise. Subsequently, Type 1 FRAs will normally be sufficient. Please feel free to get in touch to find out more and to discuss your specific needs.

How much does it cost?

Prices for fire risk assessments do vary. A good fire risk assessment is time consuming and involves a detailed look at a property and documentation. Therefore, depending on the amount of work involved, impacts on the cost of the assessment. Most calls we receive are about costs and that is totally to be expected. There are companies out there who offer what appear to be cheap fire risk assessments for £100-150. They are often in and out in minutes and provide a very basic fire risk assessment that may not offer you any legal protection should the worst happen. We often see these basic fire risk assessments and are concerned by their standard. It is not unusual for us to be asked to go out after these basic assessments have been carried out as the building owner is disappointed by the standard of their work. They may not consider the fire doors in the premises or the external walls, this is despite the fact it is required by law. Without being rude to these people, we urge ‘buyer beware.’

We would strongly ask you to consider what if you get a substandard piece of work and save just a small amount of money? What if a fire broke out and risk to life could have easily have been avoided?  Our assessments start at just £250 for a quality fire risk assessment carried out by a professional and experienced fire risk assessor. The price depends on the size and complexity of the building and the level of fire risk assessment required. Our prices are not expensive and we offer substantial value for money. We take our time and ensure the building is properly assessed and that documentation is checked. Please do not hesitate to get in touch to find out more. Remember also please, we are third party accredited assuring you of the standard of our work.

JCH Safety Ltd provide fire, health and safety consultancy. Please get in touch for a free quotation and to find out how we may help you more. Your life could depend on it.

Serving Leamington, Nuneaton, Warwickshire, Birmingham, Coventry, Wolverhampton, Leicestershire