North Ayrshire Council

Assessing Fire Safety for 131 Sites throughout North Ayrshire

Background

North Ayrshire Council is one of 32 council areas in Scotland. It covers 885 km2, and contains the towns of Ardrossan, Beith, Kilwinning, Largs, Saltcoats and West Kilbride, as well as the Isle of Arran and Cumbrae.

The Council possesses a large, diverse property portfolio. They are responsible for health and safety in primary schools, sheltered housing units, young persons residential units, libraries, community centres, day services, training facilities, street scene depots, horticultural nurseries, and criminal justice social work services.

A crucial part of maintaining health and safety in this range of properties is managing fire safety. This is a huge task when considering such a wide variety of, often large scale, properties.

Not only does it mean taking into account the many different kinds of hazards that may be present, and implementing ways to try to limit the dangers these present as much as possible, but it means maintaining a huge number of fire doors, fire alarm systems, sprinkler systems, emergency lighting systems, and fire fighting equipment. It also means training, and monitoring the training of, hundreds of members of staff in fire safety.

All of these procedures are particularly important given that in many of North Ayrshire Council’s locations – such as in sheltered housing units and youth residential units, day services, and primary schools – vulnerable people will be present.

Dalry Library, North Ayrshire

Dalry Library

The Challenge

North Ayrshire Council needed comprehensive, PAS-79 compliant fire risk assessments of 125 of their sites throughout North Ayrshire, and they needed them to be completed within a 6-month timescale.

For an additional 6 sites, a fire risk assessment had been done recently and so in order to be legally compliant they needed an annual fire risk assessment review to be conducted.

The extensive geographical area covered by North Ayrshire Council and the remote locations of some of their sites meant that careful consideration had to be given to the grouping of sites to ensure the most efficient usage of our assessors’ time.

25 of the sites consisted of residential units for vulnerable people. For these sites we were asked to conduct fire risk assessments of the communal areas. As residential units, however, they are classed as domestic housing, and neither the individual apartments nor the communal areas are covered under the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005.

Ardrossan Library, North Ayrshire

Ardrossan Library

This means that there are no guidance documents available for how to conduct a fire risk assessment of this type of building, so our assessors had to use their extensive knowledge and experience to carry out their assessments and ensure best practice could be achieved.North Ayrshire Council had specific requests about how the reporting needed to be done in order to meet their requirements.

Furthermore, given the scale of the project and the logistics involved, they needed to be able to monitor progress at all times so that they could see where we were in the schedule and what was coming up.

This was particularly important to make sure that our assessors would have access to each property to do the assessment, and that the responsible person would be on-site at the time.

The Solution

For the 6 properties that had had a fire risk assessment done recently, Amalgamate conducted a fire risk assessment review, helping to ensure that the fire risk assessment for these properties was a live document, by highlighting any new actions that needed to be taken.

For the remaining 125 properties we conducted comprehensive fire risk assessments that involved:

  • Looking at any potential fire hazards in the building, from electrical sources of ignition, portable heaters, fixed heating installations, and cooking appliances, to what dangerous substances were being stored, the state of housekeeping, and what potential there was for wilful fire raising;

 

  • Examining what active and passive measures for fire protection were in place, including means of escape, measures to limit fire spread and development, emergency escape lighting, fire safety signs, giving warning in the case of a fire, and fire extinguishers;

 

  • Analysing what procedures were in place for safety management, such as how often training and fire drills take place, if there are assigned fire wardens, what the testing and maintenance regimes are for fire detection systems, alarm systems, emergency lighting, fire extinguishers, sprinkler systems, and fire exit doors; and

 

  • Verifying what records were being kept of fire drills, staff training, and testing regimes.

 

Our assessors are true experts in fire prevention – former fire-fighters with experience and qualifications in a range of specialist subjects, including fire regulations, human behaviour in fire situations, and fire alarm systems.

Their level of expertise allowed them to go above and beyond the standard information covered under the PAS-79 fire risk assessment and ensuring that North Ayrshire Council were meeting legal requirements, enabling them to make additional notes on issues that might be considered, and to give advice on best practice.

Throughout the process the Amalgamate team had regular discussions with the Council staff overseeing the fire risk assessments, to make sure that everything being done was meeting their requirements and to make them aware of any particular concerns.

Any severe problems that our assessors came across on site were immediately reported to the relevant people on site and at the Council, ensuring that remedial action could be taken swiftly.

For each of the sites, as well as the FRA report, we drew up a clear action plan detailing any hazards found, the action that should be taken, and the timescale that action should be taken within. This enabled North Ayrshire Council to see at a glance what needed to be done at each of their properties and when it needed to be done by, making it easy for them to then monitor their own progress in making the necessary changes.

We also prepared an executive summary for each of the properties, which highlighted the crucial points for their attention.

All of the documentation produced underwent a rigorous quality assurance process to ensure that all of the information was accurate, technically correct and, importantly, understandable for a non-specialist audience.

Amalgamate managed all of the timing of the processes, remaining flexible enough throughout that if a fire risk assessment needed to be done urgently this could be pushed to the top of the schedule. The assessments and reports were completed within the necessary timeframes, and our reports were recognised as being of a high quality.

Bonnie Lesley Court Sheltered Housing Unit, North Ayrshire

Bonnie Lesley Court Sheltered Housing Unit

Get in Touch

Our professional services are designed to offer flexibility to the businesses we work with. If you would like to get in touch to find out more about our work with North Ayrshire Council or any of the services we can provide, call us on +44 (0)141 244 0181 or email info@amalgamate-safety.com.