Getting the IRMP process right.

Integrated Risk Management Plans are risk-based plans which aim to manage/reduce the risk to communities and employees from fire and other emergencies. The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (as amended) set out the responsibilities that a fire & rescue authority carries to manage the risks to its employees and others resulting from the activities of their undertaking. Under these regulations there is a legal requirement to risk assess all operations to ensnare that the risks are first of all understood, and then eliminated or reduced. Any residual risk must be managed to ensure that all risks are effectively reduced to 'As Low As Reasonably Practicable' (ALARP).

In addition to the need for legal compliance there are wider moral obligations to, and expectations of, society and the authority's own employees, to provide a healthy and safe working environment.

In the case of the fire & rescue service, its raison d'etre is to engage in effective preventative strategies, and to apply specialist skills and experience to real or potentially life-threatening situations. When responding to an emergency call, this requires judgements and assessments of risk to be made rapidly and often in situations of heightened alarm, where the potential for error is increased. To manage such situations as effectively as possible, and to minimise the risks to both Firefighters and also the public, an holistic approach to the management of risk is needed. This approach must take into consideration the various contexts within which the service is required to function, the range of emergency response options available and the resources required to achieve an agreed level of response.

Ultimately, the ability of a fire & rescue service to perform in accordance with the proposals set out in their IRMP will depend upon the availability of competent resources, in its widest context, coupled with the promotion of a risk-based culture at all levels of the service itself. Effective pro-planning is essential for both public and Firefighter safety.

Risk Assessment, ALARP & IRMSPs

Risk is defined as the product of the likelihood of an event occurring and the consequences should that event occur, The primary risk to be managed by the fire & rescue service i.e. fire, can be reduced by:

* promoting fire prevention i.e. reducing the probability of exposure to the hazard; and/or

* providing emergency rescue and firefighting intervention i.e. reducing the consequence of exposure to the hazard.

The Risk Management process involves a number of stages:

* Identification of hazards;

* Analysis of relevant data and information;

* Assessment of the risk of the adverse event occurring;

* Identification of control measures;

* Implementation of the selected control measures.

Hazards are often difficult to define accurately and may be physical, psychological, operational, systemic or procedural. In order to manage the risk cycle fully, not only must all elements of the risk assessment process be put in place, but the hazard identification process must be undertaken rigorously to ensure that all significant hazards have been identified,

The degree of rigour in the assessment of risk must be commensurate with the level of risk i.e. the risk assessment should be suitable and sufficient. In cases of minor injury or property damage, it would usually be sufficient for competent experts to carry out a qualitative assessment. At the other end of the spectrum, in the case of very high risk involving multiple deaths, a combination of quantitative (numerical) assessment and qualitative assessment (expert judgement) is more appropriate. In this respect the expert knowledge of Firefighters and Firefighters (Control) is essential to the targeting of appropriate control measures and demonstrating that risks are reduced ALARP.

An IRMP is a complex risk-based plan. In order to ensure that all hazards have been systematically identified, the risks posed by those hazards considered, and effective control measures determined, the entire risk management process must be considered. The diagram opposite shows the typical risk management process as it relates to integrated risk management planning. The relationship between this risk management process and Sections 1 to 9 of the National IRMP Document is also shown in this diagram.


Safety Management Systems

The Health and Safety Executive publication HSG(65) entitled 'Successful Health and Safety Management' sets out the building blocks for putting in place suitable arrangements for the whole process of managing health and safety risk i.e. the management system. Whilst the risk assessment principles set out are for application within an organisation, the same principles are valid for a fire & rescue authority within the context of the wider fire and other risk issues which they are required to manage under an Integrated Risk Management Plan.

The six key elements of such a management system are:

* Policy

* Organisation

* Planning and Implementation

* Measuring Performance

* Reviewing Performance

* Auditing

The relationships between these elements are shown in Figure 3.


1. Policy

Policies set a clear direction for the organisation to follow in all aspects of performance. The IRMP should set out a clear policy for the direction of the fire & rescue authority which embraces all aspects of the authority's performance and its relationships with other emergency services, government departments and agencies, local government departments, the business sector, the voluntary sector, the general public and community policies.

2. Organisation

The IRMP should define the responsibilities and relationships that are necessary to promote a positive health and safety culture and to secure the implementation of the IRMP proposals. Organising includes the identification of an effective management structure, effective and reliable communication arrangements (both internally and with the wider community), competence requirements and training needs.

3. Planning & Implementation

A planned and systematic approach is required to implement the policy, through an effective health and safety management system. The IRMP should clearly demonstrate how the proposals will be implemented and within what timescales. It should identify what consideration has been given to the provisions of the resources necessary to successfully implement the plan and how that provision is to be obtained and allocated.

4. Measuring Performance

Performance is measured against agreed standards to reveal when and where improvement is needed. The objectives of active and reactive monitoring are to determine the immediate causes of sub-standard performance; and to identify the underlying causes and the implications for the design and operation of the health and safety management system. The IRMP should identify targets and key performance indicators (KPI) to aid the measurement of performance and should be able to demonstrate continuous improvement over time in the delivery of the services of the fire & rescue authority.

5. Reviewing Performance

An organisation learns from all relevant experience and applies the lessons learnt. Performance is assessed by reference to local and national targets and internal key performance indicators (KPI), and external comparison. The IRMP should include procedures for regular reviews of its progress to help build upon the knowledge and experience gained in order that the arrangements may be continuously improved through suitable corrective action plans.

6. Auditing

The audit system must demonstrate that all aspects of the safety management system, ie the IRMP, are assessed (policy, organising, planning and implementation, measuring systems and review systems) and must also demonstrate the mechanism for updating the IRMP.

Specific audit arrangements should be identified to assist in providing an understanding of the fire & rescue authority's performance, including audits of KPIs. …

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