Churches and fire risk assessments

Fire has the potential to injure or kill large numbers of people very quickly. Under the 2005 Fire Safety legislation, if you are responsible for a church property, you are legally required to produce a Fire Risk Assessment. This article is intended to help you and your church understand what you need to have in place at your property and where to find further information.

Is this article a response to the Grenfell Tower disaster?
No. Church Growth Trust had planned to include this article some time ago. It makes it all the more relevant for you to carry out a fire risk assessment.

What is a Fire Risk Assessment?
A fire risk assessment is an organised and methodical look at your premises, the activities carried on there and the likelihood that a fire could start and cause harm to those in and around the premises. The aims of the fire risk assessment are:
• to identify the fire hazards
• to reduce the risk of those hazards causing harm as much as is reasonably practicable
• to decide what physical fire precautions and management arrangements (including an emergency plan) are necessary to ensure the safety of people in your premises if a fire does start
• to record your findings and action you are intending to take
• to review the assessment regularly (at least annually), as situations change.

Where do you start?
The requirement to produce a fire risk assessment lies with the “responsible person”. This person is “in control” of the property and so in practice will be the trustees or church leaders. As with all Health and Safety requirements, a strong lead needs to be taken that others will follow, to ensure that the risks are properly assessed, any necessary actions taken to minimise risk and that everyone supports the safe occupation of the premises.

What does the “responsible person” need to do?
The responsible person needs to appoint one or more competent persons (this could be or include the responsible person), who will have enough training and experience or knowledge to carry out a fire risk assessment. They will also need to ensure all of the preventive and protective measures required by the assessment are complied with. The competent person(s) could be someone within your organisation who has done this before or, where appropriate, a third party. Your fire risk assessment should demonstrate that, as far as is reasonable, you have considered the needs of all relevant people, including disabled people.

What should you do next?
Church Growth Trust (CGT) has produced a briefing paper on fire risk assessments and a template checklist to help churches carry out their assessments. These are available on CGT’s website. There is also a good guide produced online by the government for small and medium sized places of assembly. Before you start your fire risk assessment, take time to prepare and read through these papers. In addition, CGT will continue to support churches as practicably as possible and is available to help with any queries that may arise.

Foundations Autumn 2017