A Guide to Fire Safety in Offices

Fire safety in offices

Who is responsible for fire safety in my office?

If you are the owner, landlord, employer or occupier of a business premises, including offices, you are responsible for fire safety under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, and are known as the ‘responsible person’.  As the responsible person in your office, you must ensure that you:

  • Carry out a fire risk assessment and review it regularly
  • Identify risks from the fire risk assessment and put measures in place to reduce or manage them
  • Inform staff of the risks and of their responsibilities to ensure good fire safety is achieved
  • Ensure adequate fire safety measures have been put in place and maintain them
  • Have an appropriate fire safety procedure and communicate this to staff and visitors
  • Provide training to staff to ensure they know what to do in the event of a fire

What is a fire risk assessment?

A comprehensive fire risk assessment taking place

A fire risk assessment is a detailed review of your office space to identify fire risks and provide recommendations to either mitigate, reduce or manage them. A fire risk assessment can be carried out by a competent person or a professional.

You can use our free fire risk assessment form to carry out your own assessment if you feel you have the required skills and knowledge to do so. It is essential that you use this in conjunction with the appropriate official fire risk assessment guide for offices.

Alternatively, you can request that a trained fire risk assessor completes your office fire risk assessment for you. You will receive a comprehensive fire risk assessment and detailed guidance should any recommendations for improvement be required.

What kind of fire safety measures will I be required to put in place?

To ensure that you are meeting all your legal obligations you will need to look at the following areas:

  • Are your emergency evacuation routes and exits clear from hazards and well signposted?
  • Do you have adequate means to detect a fire and warn others?
  • Do you have appropriate fire fighting equipment and is it in the right place?
  • Are any dangerous substances stored correctly?
  • Think about the people who are in your office (both staff and visitors), particularly those with special considerations such as the elderly and people with disabilities
  • Provide fire safety information and training

Emergency evacuation routes and exits

Photoluminescent fire escape route signs

Staff escaping a building must be visually directed to the safest and usually quickest route leading to the nearest fire exit. Ensure that photo-luminescent (glow in the dark) fire escape route signs are indicating the nearest exit and are clearly visible.

You need to ensure that even if the mains power fails, all escape route signs are visible and that stairs and uneven floors are lit sufficiently to escape safely. You can achieve this by installing emergency lights or by installing illuminated fire exit signs in the first place.

Evacuation and fire drills

Every member of staff must be made aware of where the nearest fire exits are and which routes to take when exiting the building. The best way of ensuring that all staff know the escape routes is to ensure that when a new staff member starts you complete a ‘fire walk’. This enables you to show staff all the fire escape routes and  where fire fighting equipment is located.

You should carry out regular fire drills, ensuring that you also include practising taking alternative routes if your nearest fire escape should be blocked by a fire.

When planning your evacuation procedure ensure that you also include how you would safely evacuate someone with reduced mobility. Evacuation chairs offer a safe and easy solution to ensure that everyone can escape safely in the event of a fire. You should ensure that staff are trained to use equipment and also that the evacuation equipment is maintained and serviced. 

Fire extinguishers and maintenance

Choosing the right type of extinguisher

Portable fire extinguishers can be very valuable in preventing small fires getting out of hand and turning into large fires that can put lives at risk and destroy buildings. The safety of your staff and visitors should be the main priority and staff should only be encouraged to use a portable fire extinguisher if they have been trained and as long as it does not put them in any danger.

Dry water mist fire extinguishers can be used on live electrical fires

It is paramount that you have the correct type of fire extinguisher to tackle the type of fire that could occur in your office. Installing extinguishers that can tackle more than one type of fire, such as the dry water mist fire extinguisher, will reduce the number of different types required in your office and will also reduce the risk of using the wrong type. Dry water mist extinguishers can be used on class A, B and C fires as well as on live electrical fires.

You can read our following help guides for more information:

If you are still unsure of which type of fire extinguisher you need in your office you can book a fire extinguisher site survey.

Installing extinguishers

Ensure that your extinguishers are commissioned and installed by a service engineer at your premises. You will need the correct signage and to ensure that they are hung in the correct location.

Extinguisher maintenance

Once your extinguishers have been installed you are responsible to ensure that a monthly visual check is carried out, looking for the following:

  • Are there any signs of damage to the exterior?
  • Are there any blockages in the hose?
  • Are there any signs the extinguisher has been tampered with?
  • Is the extinguisher pressurised?

You must also ensure that an annual service of the extinguisher has been carried out by a trained engineer and in accordance with the British Standards.

Please note that where self-maintenance extinguishers are installed, a yearly visual inspection by your staff is required, which must be documented in your fire safety log book but no annual visit is required by an external engineer.

Fire alarms and manual call points

As the responsible person you will need to ensure that there is an adequate fire detection system in your offices. A common way to achieve this is to install fire alarms. The size, configuration and use of your office will define what sort of fire alarm system you require.

Make sure that all employees understand that the first thing to do if they discover a fire is to press the nearest manual call point (also called manual break points). This alerts all of your staff of the fire. New staff must be shown the call points during their induction period.

Where office buildings are shared with other companies, make sure that a system is in place for notifying all the companies in the building in the event of a fire.

Fire safety log book

It is essential that you keep a record of all your fire safety checks and fire drills in a fire safety logbook.

We offer a free online log book with custom reminders and the ability to print it if you wish to keep a hard copy. Keeping an online logbook will ensure that it is protected in the event of a fire so that you can show your due diligence and compliance.

Free online fire safety logbook from Safelincs
Our free online fire safety logbook
Angie Dewick-Eisele

Angie Dewick-Eisele

Marketing Manager

Angie has been our marketing manager since joining in 2002. She also has a keen interest in H&S issues.

Fire risk assessments for Church of England retirement homes

Church of England Pensions BoardSafelincs has undertaken fire risk assessments for retirement homes operated by the Church of England Pensions Board.
There are seven supported housing schemes around the country in the Midlands, West Sussex, Devon, Gloucestershire, Surrey, North Yorkshire and Lancashire. Each has approximately 30 self-contained flats for retired members of the clergy. In addition, all of them have large kitchens where communal meals are prepared, chapels, small offices, dining rooms and most of them also have residents’ lounges.
Under the Regulatory Fire Safety Order 2005 it is a requirement for all employers or owners of premises to carry out a fire risk assessment (FRA) for every workplace or premises for which they are responsible.

One of Safelincs’ professional fire risk assessors visited each of the seven locations, undertook a site analysis, recorded the findings and explained them to the person with responsibility for each site. The assessments looked at measures to reduce the risk of fire on the premises, reducing any potential spread of fire and the effective means of escape should a fire break out. Hazards were identified and eliminated or reduced.

A written FRA report was produced along with the necessary forms to allow each site to update its report in the future and to document any corrective actions that were carried out.

Safelincs obtained the work through the Parish Buying website, operated by the Church of England, which offers negotiated rates from core suppliers contracted by the Church of England on behalf of parishes, church schools and other church organisations. Safelincs is the selected supplier for all fire safety and H+S items and services. This includes a range of over 3500 fire safety products, such as fire safes, fire doors and fire alarm systems.

Ian Grace, Supported Housing Operations Manager for the Church of England Pensions Board commented: “Safelincs staff were courteous, easy to do business with and completed the work in a timely fashion.”

Servicing and fire risk assessments from Safelincs

At Safelincs, we are dedicated to fire safety. We provide over 3500 different fire safety products and services, such as fire extinguishers, fire blankets, smoke alarms, evacuation equipment and various other products to ensure that businesses and households around the UK are prepared and protected in the event of a fire.

Ensuring that any fire safety equipment in your premises is fully serviced is essential. Regularly having your fire extinguishers, fire blankets and other equipment serviced guarantees that, in the event of a fire, you can count on your equipment to protect your employees, colleagues or family.
We can provide fire extinguisher and fire blanket servicing to our clients, carried out by certified and approved BAFE engineers. Our service is transparently and competitively priced, so it is simple and convenient for you to request that we service your fire extinguishers or blankets on your premises, thoroughly and professionally.

Safelincs also offer a fire risk assessment service, whereby a member of our nationwide team of qualified risk assessors will visit your premises and carry out a meticulous assessment of the area. The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 changed fire safety legislation for business premises, meaning that fire certificates are no longer required; so it is now your responsibility to ensure that your place of work is regularly assessed for fire risks.
If you would like to find out more about our equipment servicing or fire risk assessment services, please contact us.

Do you comply?

All too often we hear of prosecutions where companies or landlords, amongst other people, are prosecuted due due breaches of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

It can be very confusing knowing what is expected of you and what fire precautions you should implement. We have developed a section of our website to provide useful information to our customers. In our Fire Safety Advice section you will find many guides to help you understand what is expected of you.

A good guide to start with is our Do you comply? guide which will help you understand what is expected of you as competent person.

Fire safety guide for landlords

Fire safety for landlords is a complicated issue. Through attending various events we have been asked numerous times by landlords for help in creating a condensed overview of fire safety relevant to them. Whilst there are already a number of extremely helpful and well-written guides available (the LACoRS and fire risk assessment guides to name but a few), we wrote a short guide to help landlords get a feeling for the legislation and fire safety guidance affecting their market.

This article can be viewed in our landlord section and contains some useful links relevant to landlords.

Hotel company fined £27,000 for fire safety offences

Hotel company Awan Investments Ltd, who manage Ventures hotel in the Paddington area of London, have been issued a £27,000 fine for breaches of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

A member of the public, who had been staying at the hotel, alerted the authorities after finding emergency exits blocked and fire doors being wedged open during their stay in 2009.

This prosecution will help to give the general public the peace of mind knowing that such breaches are dealt with and improvement orders made regarding the safety of the premises.

To read the full story follow the link. http://www.info4fire.com/news-content/full/hotel-company-found-guilty-of-ten-offences