Senior fire consultant , BB7

July 12, 2016

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Is it Time for Third-Party Fire-Risk Management System Certification in the Prison sector?

A BBC article recently reported that prison safety in England and Wales has “deteriorated further” and needs urgent improvement as figures show escalating self-harm, violence and disorder, according to a group of MPs.

Chairman of the group and ex-fire minister Bob Neill said prison safety was a matter that “cannot wait”. However, Prisons Minister Andrew Selous insisted that improvements were being made.

The report noted that there were 1,935 fires in adult prisons and young offender establishments in 2015 – a 57% increase on 2014.

Mr Neill called for the government to urgently draft an action plan aimed at increasing safety levels for both staff and prisoners. “It is imperative that further attention is paid to bringing prisons back under firmer control, reversing recent trends of escalating violence, self-harm and disorder,” he said.

This increase in fires should not be treated with complacency. Fires are rarely ‘accidents’ and can seriously affect not only life but the business continuity of the establishment. They are predictable events which can be prevented, as indeed the Fire Safety Order requires.

Fire-safety legislation and guidance is based on risk and focuses on individual premises; it is less specific about managing fire risk from an organisational level

By formalising an organisation’s fire-risk-management System (FRMS) it is possible to improve fire safety while achieving process improvements and reducing the cost of compliance overtime. At a time when purse strings have never been tighter and the need to improve fire safety has never been so high on the agenda, PAS 7 could provide the solution to the problems highlighted by the media.

Current fire-safety legislation and guidance is based on risk and focuses on individual premises and facilities. It is less specific about managing this risk from fire at an organisational level.

In many cases, the person(s) with duties under legislation may be part of a larger organisation with multiple sites and facilities with common working practices and procedures. This can present challenges with regard to translating fire safety policy into effective strategies throughout the organisation, where fire safety is unlikely to be the key driver.

PAS 7 presents requirements for an organisational FRMS. The system can be applied in organisations that operate on multiple sites, separate management divisions within an organisation or individual premises within a single entity.

A documented FRMS provides a means of demonstrating that fire safety policy is translated into action to ensure that the fire risk to people and the business are reduced as far as reasonably practicable while ensuring that the legislative requirements are met. The standard of the management system level should be proportionate to the level of risk arising from the organisation’s activities and subsequent level of assurance sought.

Documentation of the FRMS and its processes will provide an auditable trail that demonstrates an organisation’s commitment to fire-risk management and legislative compliance. It should not result in undue bureaucracy.

PAS 7 can be adopted by any organisation wanting to implement a formal procedure to reduce the risks to life (of employees, customers and the general public), property, assets and the environment that are associated with fire in the working environment.

UKAS has embarked on a pilot project to accredited organisations wishing to certificate against PAS 7: 2013 – Fire Risk Management System Specification. BB7 is offering a free GAP analysis to any medium/large organisation considering formalising their fire-risk management system organisation-wide.


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