Individual Fire Risk Assessments And Smoking In Care Homes
Following a series of tragic fatal fires in care homes across the U.K. in recent years, the Secretary Of State has received written advice, further highlighting the issues relating to the lack of consideration given to the hazards created by individual residents within care home premises, particularly those that smoke.
This is in the context of a recent prosecution of a care provider, for fire safety offences relating to the death of a resident at a care home in Southwark, South East London. In view of that case, Shropshire Fire And Rescue Service (SFRS) has issued this guidance on individual smoking risk assessments. It includes information about reducing the risks of fire and mitigating the effects of fire. The guidance takes account of individual's habits, mental and physical capacity, and their situation (in conjunction with their families and care workers).
SFRS believe that the fire hazards introduced by individual residents in care premises should form part of the fire risk assessment, especially where they are known to be in possession of ignition sources such as lighters. This then enables the responsible person to provide appropriate control measures which may include supervision of smoking, fire retardant nightwear and bedding, or the removal of such ignition sources. Fire safety measures taken or planned, should be recorded in the significant findings of the fire risk assessment.
A senior coroner has expressed considerable concerns over the quality of the fire risk assessment at a care home in London, following another recent tragic death. This has resulted in the senior coroner being minded to issue a Regulation 28 Report to prevent future deaths.
The coroner raises significant concerns in the report, regarding:
- The current guidance relating to risk assessments in residential care homes is insufficient, as the assessments are not required to take into account individual risk factors.
- The individual fire risk assessments are not currently undertaken and recorded as part of the individual’s care plan and other assessments.
- The fire risk assessments do not currently take into account persons present and these person’s access to fire sources.
- The assessments do not currently include actions aimed at putting into place appropriate control measures for individual residents identified as at increased risk.
- That there is currently no guidance in place recommending individual risk assessments and any control measures be regularly reviewed and updated according to any recorded decline in cognitive capacity.
NB The second point, above, refers to the fact that individual care plans do not currently take account of fire risks to the individual, which could affect the rest of the premises.
SFRS are seeking to engage with the Care Quality Commission, to ensure care home providers review their fire risk assessments in order to confirm fire hazards are reduced and the effects of fire are mitigated, so far as is reasonably practicable. We are also looking for care home providers to have their fire risk assessments undertaken by those who are on a register approved by the Fire Risk Assessment Competency Council and ultimately to make this a mandatory requirement similar to which the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (CQC equivalent) have introduced in Northern Ireland. The resulting guidance issued by the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority to choosing competent fire risk assessors in residential care homes, can be viewed here.
In order to provide specific information that will protect the vulnerable, especially those who smoke within their own rooms, SFRS have distributed advice to all known care homes throughout Shropshire, available here