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’re an employer or manager, then fireproofing your office should be a high priority – but what do you need to consider?
1. Check your electrics. 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?
Be sure to minimise the risks from electricity by regularly checking equipment for damage, ensuring equipment is used correctly by employees and removing faulty equipment from use straight away
2. Test your fire detection/warning systems regularly. 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.
3.Keep an eye on emergency escape routes. By law, your office must have a way of taking people from the premises to a place of safety outside in case of fire. This may just be down the main office staircase, or you may have an external fire escape or a designated corridor that can only be used in the event of a fire.
But when was the last time you checked the escape route? Can people use it safely or has the corridor become obstructed with chairs, plants or other objects? Your emergency escape routes must be accessible at all times so good housekeeping is vital.
4.Appoint a competent fire warden. Does your office have a dedicated person who has responsibility for fire safety? There are numerous fire warden duties that could lead to serious consequences if ignored, so it’s essential that the appointed person takes the role seriously (and doesn’t just see it as a fun ‘title’ that they’d like to have).
Fire wardens must be trained so they are confident to maintain the evacuation plan, carry out a fire risk assessment and ensure fire-fighting equipment is present and correct.
5.Safe smoke breaks. Whether you have a designated space outside, or simply ask people to head away from the building, are your employees aware of the fire safety risks that accompany that mid-morning cigarette break?
Make sure that workers know to take care when smoking, specifically when discarding smoking materials that could easily set light to flammable materials nearby, such as dry leaves, papers and textiles in rubbish bins or spilled petrol in the carpark. It only takes one small accident or act of carelessness to cause major damage.
6.Educate employees. In the UK, recent statistics from the Home Office suggest that 76% of primary fires are caused accidentally, mostly as a result of people misusing equipment and appliances, careless handling or smoking materials. If all of the people involved in these cases had been properly educated on the importance of fire safety, would this statistic be so high?
It’s essential that all employees are trained in fire safety so they understand how to identify hazards, how to prevent them and what to do should a fire break out in the workplace. Even if your office has all possible plans, procedures, signs and equipment in place, it’s unlikely to be effective if employees don’t understand their responsibilities.