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.

More information:

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.

More information:

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.

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?

More information:

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.

More information:

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.

Free 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

HR & Marketing Manager

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

Free online fire safety logbook for organisations with multiple sites

All businesses and organisations have to maintain fire safety logbooks to record their regular equipment tests and findings. Just to give one example, fire extinguishers have to be visually inspected on a monthly base, serviced yearly and refilled usually after five years (except, of course, the service free P50 fire extinguishers). Fire alarms have to be tested and serviced as well and the list of fire safety equipment requiring regular servicing just goes on and on. Most inspections will be on different dates, so keeping track of your compliance can be a real challenge. If your company is spread over multiple sites, the challenge becomes even more daunting. Multiple members of staff will be involved in the compliance checking and will have to report their data to a central office.

log-book-2

Safelincs has developed a FREE online multi-user fire safety logbook which not only allows the recording of maintenance across multiple sites but also manages a reminder system for all people involved. The system supports the Responsible Person in the  central office with an insight into the overall fire safety recording status. The fire safety logbook will hold all the data for you, however, a backup copy can be printed out at any time. And best of all – this service is entirely free! To use this online fire safety logbook visit our website.

Emergency lighting guide

This post was written in 2011 and a more recent version exists. Please read our new guide: what you need to know about emergency lighting.

Planning your emergency lighting can be quite daunting and appear very complicated. We have developed an emergency lighting guide to help with all the issues of planning where to install your emergency lights.

The guide has been developed through answering customer questions on emergency lighting installation, ensuring that we are answering the questions you want to ask.  The guide covers topics such as planning, location, types of lights, signs and testing your emergency lights.

The emergency lighting planning section goes through six steps to ensure that you comply to the most update legislation, including the Health & Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996, and the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. The guide is designed to help proprietors or people responsible for emergency lighting provisions to think about the many aspects of evacuation and escape.

The section on where to locate your emergency lighting covers every day areas such as corridors and junctions, where there may be a change in direction to stairways, steps and ramps as well as exits and fire and first aid points. There is also a section for areas that are not so common, covering large open areas, generators or heavy machinery, escalators and lifts. Each of the sections gives a comprehensive guide to which compliant emergency light is available, giving you the overview and possibility to choose the correct lighting not only for location but also in accordance with your budget.

Emergency lighting is only one section of this guide. The guide also covers the installation of safety signs, again giving advice in accordance with the Health & Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996, and the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.  It covers the requirement of externally illuminated signs or  internally illuminated fire exit signs.

Once the type of emergency lighting has been selected and the correct emergency exit or fire exit signs have been purchased it is critical to have some knowledge of the testing requirements as set down in the British Standard BS 5266-1:1999.

The emergency lighting guide looks at monthly testing, half yearly testing and testing of appliances that are three years old. It is the role of the designated responsible person to ensure that the emergency lighting, once it is installed, is working according to the legislation. When purchasing emergency lighting from Safelincs you can choose to register for a reminder at the end of the checkout process and we will automatically send you reminders to test your emergency lighting when the lighting is coming up for testing.

For recording your emergency lighting tests you can also download our free fire safety logbook.

To make your assessment and planning of your emergency lighting as problem free as possible view the comprehensive guide

Free Fire Safety Logbook from Safelincs

Safelincs is aware that in the current economical times, the purchasing of fire alarm tests records, emergency lighting test logbooks etc, is not at the top of the list. That is why we have made a FREE downloadable log book.

The Logbook includes fire safety advice in fire prevention, fire escape, fire alarms, fire extinguishers, emergency lighting and general fire precautions.

Visit www.safelincs.co.uk/fire-safety-logbook to take advantage now!