The danger of a potential fire is a real concern, and in 2015/2016 there were over 20,000 fires in London alone. Fires in an office can start from electrical appliances, especially if they’re not correctly maintained. You can also suffer a fire in office kitchens, as well as from staff mistakes around the workplace.
As of 2006, fire safety certificates issued under the Fire Precautions Act 1971 ceased to have any effect, meaning that all premises must comply with Fire Regulations under The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. Every workplace should have a dedicated “responsible person” — usually the employer, owner, or landlord — and there are several things they can do to prevent a fire breaking out.
Install working smoke and heat detection — especially around the kitchen
Installing working heat and smoke detectors, especially around the kitchen, can help catch and alert you of any forgotten foods that are burning away. You should also have working fire detection alarms throughout the office, and have these regularly tested to make sure they’re in correct working order.
A heat alarm should be installed in the kitchen, which monitors a pronounced increase in temperature rather than smoke. However, these only cover a small surface area, so it could be worth installing a few if you have a large kitchen in your workplace.
Similarly, electrical equipment in a kitchen, such as microwaves, or even ovens, may catch fire if they’re not correctly maintained. This includes toasters, which could burn your food if left unattended, and are actually beginning to be banned in many workplaces across the country.
Get regular PAT tests done for electrical appliances in the office
You should have appliances PAT tested (PAT is short for portable appliance testing) regularly. While most electrical safety defects can be noticed by simply looking at an appliance, there are many hidden dangers that can only be uncovered by properly testing the electronics or wiring of an appliance. To this end, it’s always advisable to have a professional electrician or a fire safety expert perform the necessary checks to ensure that there are no fire hazards.
Considering the number of electrical items to be found in an office, there are plenty of opportunities for sparks to fly. Older electrical appliances are more likely to catch fire than newer ones, due to potentially worn down connections, frayed wires, and damaged power cords.
Keep an eye on the condition of wires and cables, and check your power sockets regularly. Contact a registered electrician if you find anything alarming, such as burn marks or if the sockets feel hot. You should avoid overloading power sockets, especially with appliances that have a high electrical current, and never plug one multi-socket adapter into another—it’s safer to have extra sockets installed if you need it.
Install fire extinguishers and keep fire doors closed
You should have fire extinguishers located around the building, in accessible areas. For offices with a great deal of electrical equipment, CO2 extinguishers are generally advised, as these are specifically designed for electrical fires.
It is best to install fire extinguishers close to potential fire risk areas and at exit doors and stairways, and ensure that they are easily accessible at all times. Furthermore, there should be a weekly check that they have not been removed and all the safety pins are in place ensuring that they haven’t been used or tampered with. Our fire risk assessments can help you determine the best places to position your fire extinguishers within the office, and all of our equipment conforms to BAFE (British Approvals for Fire Equipment) standards.
Any fire doors in the workplace should be kept closed, as they help prevent the spread of smoke and fire throughout the building, giving staff longer to evacuate the premises in case of an emergency. Keeping a fire door wedged open is both unsafe and illegal, and open fire doors should never be left unattended.
Avoiding other fire hazards in the workplace
Having smokers amongst your staff greatly increases the risk of an office fire breaking out. Figures show that the number of smoking-related fires in London rose by 25 per cent in 2015/2016 compared to the previous year, with the number of fatalities in those fires increasing by 55 per cent to 17 deaths.
Having a proper ashtray and litter bin outdoors to stub out any cigarettes, and not allowing the bin to overflow is the main precaution staff can take to reduce the risk of any fires.
You should also clean the office regularly to reduce the risk of a fire breaking out. Having clutter around the office, and a lack of proper cleaning, can massively increase the chances of a fire. This includes:
- Buildup of dust and grime on electrical appliances, which can cause them to overheat
- Waste paper and cardboard clogging the hallways
- Alcohol or aerosol cans being stored too close (within three feet) to electrical panels and heating facilities
For more information on fireproofing your office and installing fire and smoke alarms, contact us today.