Whether a shoebox for cashing up and planning rotas or a 100-desk call centre, very few workplaces don’t have an office of some description. From hospitals and schools to retailers and trades. And regardless of office size, it is imperative that you have the correct fire safety precautions in place.
But what are your obligations when it comes to fire safety for offices? And how can you ensure that you are doing everything you can to reduce the risk of fire and keep your employees safe?
Everything You Need to Know About Fire Safety for Offices
What are the main fire risks for offices?
Every business is unique and will carry its own fire risks. And you can ascertain what those will be for your business through your mandatory Fire Risk Assessment. However, there are a number of common factors which most often contribute to office fires. These include:
The inappropriate storage of flammable materials, such as paper.
Poorly maintained electrical equipment and electrical faults left undetected through a lack of PAT testing.
The incorrect use of fire doors, including the obstruction and the propping open of doors.
Poor escape route planning, which may not account for the needs of all building occupants.
And a lack of fire safety equipment, such as fire extinguishers and fire signage.
Whose responsibility is office fire safety?
There is a common misconception amongst business owners who rent their premises that fire safety is their landlord’s remit. But while commercial landlords do have a specific range of responsibilities relating to fire safety, they are concerned with the structure of the building. Such as whether compartmentation, cavity barriers, and acoustic seals are required. But day-to-day fire safety management relating to the functionality of the building and office environment is the responsibility of the tenant.
What can you do to ensure the best fire safety for offices?
Fire Risk Assessments
As already mentioned, your Fire Risk Assessment is the first step towards ensuring that your office has the best fire protection available. But it’s not just a sensible precaution. It’s a legal requirement. So, if you are responsible for a business, it’s integral that you perform a thorough Fire Risk Assessment, and review it regularly.
It will help you to identify any fire risks, any people who may be at increased risk in the event of a fire, and help you to reduce any potential risks. So, that’s your starting point. And it will guide you through the next steps.
Check your fire safety equipment
Every office should have a range of fire safety equipment. Understanding what you need, how to use it, and how to maintain it can save lives. So:
Fire extinguishers – There are five different types of fire extinguisher. Each extinguisher can deal with a different type of fire. All offices should have at least one powder extinguisher, to combat fires ignited on solids, such as paper and plastic. And one CO² extinguisher to deal with electrical fires. Your Fire Risk Assessment will highlight any other extinguisher types you may need. All extinguishers must be well-maintained and tested on a regular basis.
Fire alarm systems – All businesses must have some kind of fire warning system in place. In most instances, this will take the form of a smoke or fire alarm. It’s important to understand your obligations in relation to fire alarm system maintenance. As well as weekly testing, British Standard BS 5839-1, dictates that all commercial premises must have their fire alarm systems serviced at least every six months.
Emergency lighting – Emergency lighting systems are only worth having if you can be certain that they will work when required. Knowing how to test your emergency lighting, and performing regular checks is essential.
Fire doors – If fully functioning, a fire door can prevent the spread of a fire for as much as 30 minutes. Providing vital time for any building occupants to safely evacuate. All offices should inspect their fire doors on a regular basis.
Make sure that your people know what to do
Perform fire drills
If you’re looking for a fail-safe way to make your team groan, try announcing a fire drill. Fire drills are never popular. But they save lives. The best way to make sure that everyone stays as safe as they possibly can be in a real fire event is to ensure that all of your team members know what they should be doing. Where they should be going. And the fastest way to get there. Performing regular fire drills is the easiest and most effective way to make this happen.
Train your teams
All businesses are legally obliged to provide fire safety training for all employees and anyone who works on their site. Including volunteers and day visitors. You can simplify this process by appointing a fully trainedfire warden/fire marshal to manage all routine in-house training. Or book fire safety training from a professional provider when your whole team need a refresh.
Fire safety for offices relies largely upon common sense. If you familiarise yourself with the relevant legislation, create and regularly update a Fire Risk Assessment, and ensure that your teams are trained and equipment maintained, you are doing everything you can to keep your office, business, and team safe from the risk of fire.
1st Class Fire Protection is an industry-leading fire protection company serving customers throughout Norfolk, Suffolk, and the surrounding areas of Cambridgeshire. We provide full installation and maintenance for the complete range of fire protection solutions for businesses. Get in touch to arrange your essential fire maintenance services.