Top 10 Tips for Office Fire Safety
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This article looks at the Top 10 Tips for Office Fire Safety. Fire safety is something that all office environments should take seriously, not just for the benefit of the people who work there, but also because it’s a legal requirement for businesses to assess the risks and ensure suitable steps are taken to reduce the likelihood of fire.
If you work in an office then you’re likely to work amongst a lot of electrical equipment, including computers, photocopiers, printers, telephones, and desk lamps, etc. But did you know that electrical equipment poses one of the greatest risks to fire safety? A huge number of fires in office premises can be traced back to faulty wiring and electrical equipment.
Turn off all electrical appliances at the end of the day – it goes without saying that electrical appliances can easily overheat or malfunction, and become a huge fire hazard in the office. So, at the end of each day, ensure that all appliances are turned off and help prevent a disastrous situation happening overnight.
Don’t overload circuits – overloading electrical circuits with more than the recommended capacity can cause the fuse to blow, overheat and become a huge fire hazard. Avoid overloading plug sockets, multi-plug adaptors or extension leads.
Keep easy access to electrical control panels – if there is an emergency and you need to shut down a particular machine, the last thing you want to be doing is moving obstacles or equipment out of the way before you can even get to the control panel. Always be sure that nothing is stored directly in front of electrical control panels, to allow easy access to shut the system down in case of an emergency and preferably have them visibly marked to enable swift identification at a moment’s notice.
Report any electrical faults – electrical faults are one of the main causes of office fires, so it’s important that everyone on the premises keeps a lookout for any potential electrical faults, and immediately draws attention to them. Have all your electrical equipment checked regularly and have a reporting procedure in place for employees to use. Poorly maintained equipment causes fires!
Stay on top of machine maintenance – ensure that machines are always properly and regularly checked and maintained, to avoid overheating and friction sparks.
Keep Fire Safety Equipment Clear
Anything which may be needed in the event of a fire should not be obstructed or covered in any way at any time. This includes fire extinguishers shoved behind desks, fire escapes blocked by machinery, and sprinkler systems obstructed by decorations or other such material.
Never block sprinkler systems or smoke detectors – nothing should be in the way of these potentially life-saving appliances, as they play a very important part in the event of a fire.
Install Fire Detection Systems
All offices must have a fire detection and warning system in place, but how often do you confirm that these are working correctly? Make sure that you test your smoke alarms at least once a month, and carry out frequent tests of the fire alarm to ensure that it functions correctly and can be heard by everyone around the office.
Promote Good Housekeeping
Practice good housekeeping – Clutter contributes to fires by providing fuel and by preventing access to exits and emergency equipment. Ensure that anything that may easily catch fire e.g. flammable and combustible waste materials, including waste paper, cardboard, oily rags or rubbish, is kept to a minimum and does not contribute to a fire.
Chemical Safety – Use and store chemicals safely. Read the label and the relevant material safety data sheet to determine flammability and other fire hazards. Provide adequate ventilation when using and storing these substances.
Prevent Ignition – Use all precautions to prevent ignition in potentially explosive atmospheres such as those containing flammable liquid vapours or fine particles. Use non-sparking tools, and control static electricity as required.
Smoke only in designated smoking areas – and be sure that smoking materials are always extinguished and disposed of safely, preferably in a metal container.
Arson is the cause of 45% of fires – Check the areas outside the building and remove anything that might be tempting to an opportunist arsonist.
Prepare An Emergency Plan
What are your fire emergency procedures? – Everyone must know what to do if they discover a fire or hear the fire alarm, what types of warning systems are in place, and evacuation procedures.
Your workplace should have one or more people in charge of creating and maintaining fire safety procedures. These people are known as fire marshals, who will work together with their employer to create evacuation procedures and take charge of evacuations in the event of a fire. They should receive practical training on how to use fire-fighting equipment.
Create Fire Escape Routes
They must take people to a place of safety, have clear signs, be free from obstruction and be well lit.
Persons should be familiar with the best and quickest, route out to the location of the assembly point. They can then act swiftly in an emergency without panicking.
Final exit doors – must be checked every day to make sure that they are unlocked and that there is nothing behind them to hinder an evacuation.
Keep fire doors shut – Fire doors are in place to stop the spread of fire and keep routes protected, make sure they’re not wedged open.
Emergency lighting – All emergency routes and exits must be well lit. Include lighting at each door, corridor, change of direction and floor level, staircase, and next to fire-fighting equipment and alarms. Be sure to test emergency lighting regularly.
Fire safety signs – All fire safety signs should contain pictures so anyone can understand them at a glance. Ensure they are well lit so they can be seen in an emergency, even if the power goes out.
Do not re-enter the building until told it is safe to do so, not even to collect belongings.
Hold Regular Fire Drills
Make fire drills a regular part of your workplace schedule, at least annually, to ensure all employees know what to do and where to go in an emergency. Carry out a fire drill sooner if any major changes are made to evacuation routes.
Can people evacuate quickly and effectively? – Practice an evacuation and record what went well, not so well and, make improvements. Tell everyone about the improvements and keep practising until it’s the best it can be. You may also wish to appoint a dedicated fire marshal to oversee the correct observance of every fire drill.
Train Your Employees In Fire Safety
Employee engagement is the best method of continual compliance in any workplace.
Training works – Giving people the right information about fire safety is a legal requirement. It works. Once people understand the potential effects of a fire, they change their behaviour for the better, for good.
Knowing the best course of action in an emergency can help prevent fire emergencies become even more serious, so it is imperative that all employees, both new and old; are re-instructed in your office’s fire safety procedures as often as possible.
Know Your Fire Extinguishers
Fire extinguishers – it’s important to ensure that the workplace has the appropriate type and number of fire extinguishers to account for the size and the company and that everyone in the vicinity knows how to operate them properly, in case of emergency. They should be maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
Ensure You Have A Fire Risk Assessment
We follow a ‘5-step’ approach to Life Safety Fire Risk Assessments as required by the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and utilise PAS 79 (a framework for Qualitative Risk Assessment which offers a methodology and structured approach to Fire Risk Assessment for people with knowledge of the principles of fire safety). This ensures that our clients’ premises are adequately assessed for fire risks to life, property and business continuity. A full, detailed and bespoke report is produced and consultation is offered following the fire risk assessment to discuss any significant findings and required actions to achieve a satisfactory standard of fire safety within your premises.
Keep a record of all fire safety actions and review them at least annually.
Please note that this article provides basic easy-to-understand guidance of fire safety provisions and the key fire safety information required to comply with legislation. Our articles are reviewed regularly. However, any changes made to standards or legislation following the review date will not have been considered. We aim to assist you to understand the fire-related terms within your Fire Risk Assessment. It does not provide detailed technical guidance on all fire safety provisions, and you might require further advice or need to consult the full standards and legislation.
Fire Risk Consultancy Services have the knowledge and experience to assist your business to comply with all legal requirements surrounding fire safety including legislation. Be sure to read our accompanying guides: Fire Alarm System Types, Fire Extinguishers, Emergency Lighting, Fire Doors, Fire Safety Signs, also published on this site.
Please take a moment to have a look around our website where you will find related articles and guides to all the services we can provide your business with, from providing Fire Risk Assessments, fire safety training, full advisory service to Articles on Fire Safety Provisions and our Top Fire Safety Tips!