A Guide to 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.

Latest Posts by Angie Dewick-Eisele

A Guide to Fire Safety in Offices26th February 2021
CO Detectors and ‘False Alarms’16th February 2021
Safelincs Celebrates the Return of Furloughed Staff6th July 2020

Lighting the Way – What You Need to Know About Emergency Lighting

Why is emergency lighting necessary?

Eden Bulkhead Emergency Lighting
LED Emergency Lighting Bulkhead – Eden

As the responsible person it is your legal obligation to ensure that adequate emergency lighting is installed across all the escape routes and exits from every area of the building with a minimum backup duration of between 1 and 3 hours. Emergency lighting is essential to light escapes routes for emergency evacuations when normal mains-powered lighting fails.

There are different types of emergency lights, some function as a normal light and others function only as an emergency light source. As a starting point you should know what type of emergency light you want to install for example; do you want a maintained emergency light (stays on constantly) or a non-maintained emergency light (illuminates only in the event of a mains power failure)?

Your emergency lighting requirements

Jalite photoluminescent fire exit signs
Jalite photoluminescent fire exit signs

When deciding where to install emergency lights, take into account any hazards that there may be along the evacuation route, such as corners, stairways or uneven flooring. You must also ensure that fire alarm call points and equipment used for firefighting, such as extinguishers or fire blankets, are adequately illuminated to be easily seen or located. Some areas will require continued operation (e.g. a chemical processing room, operation theatre etc); higher continued lighting requirements must be considered in these areas.

A sub-category of emergency lighting is fire exit signs, which are green ‘running man’ signs with arrows that guide people towards the nearest exits. These are either internally lit in the same fashion as space emergency lighting or, in case sufficient other emergency lights are available, they can be photoluminescent. Such ‘glow-in-the-dark signs store energy from either natural or artificial light and releases this stored energy when the light source is no longer there, emitting a yellow/green glow to illuminate the text on the sign.

You should refer to your fire risk assessment to ensure that you have covered all the essential fire escape routes and addressed any hazards on your site that were highlighted in this assessment. It is a legal requirement to carry out a fire risk assessment and you should refresh this assessment if the activities within your premises change or if significant changes to the layout are made. You can find authoritative guidance in the government's fire risk assessment guides.

Buy emergency lights

Visit our emergency lights and signs section to view our full range of emergency lighting products.

Testing and maintenance

As with all fire safety equipment, regular testing of your emergency lights must be carried out to ensure that it is working correctly. You should test that the lights are triggered when the mains supply is cut, and also that all the lights are illuminated as they should be. This can be done with the use of a fish key.

You will need to test your lighting once a month and ensure that a full discharge test is carried once a year. Log the results as any other fire safety equipment tests in your fire safety logbook.

If you would like to know more about emergency lighting our emergency lighting guides can provide you with useful information.

Free reminder service

Sign up to our free reminder service to receive text or email reminders to regularly test your emergency lighting.

CO Detectors and ‘False Alarms’

CO detector false alarmsCO detectors, or carbon monoxide alarms, are essential for the detection of a deadly gas, carbon monoxide (CO). This gas cannot be seen, tasted or smelt and is only detected with the use of co detectors. It is produced through the incomplete combustion of fuel, such as gas, wood, coal and oil.

Before we go on to look at CO detector false alarms here is some advice on what you should do if your alarm goes off.

What to do when your CO detector goes off

If your CO detector goes off do not assume that it is a false alarm, remember carbon monoxide can’t be seen, tasted or smelt. You should assume that there is CO present and should follow these steps to ensure your safety.

  • Stay calm, open doors and windows to increase ventilation
  • Where safe to do so, turn off any fuel-burning appliance
  • Leave the premises and notify other occupants of the potential carbon monoxide leak (you should also notify any occupant of premises adjoined to your home as CO can seep through walls and floors
  • Call Gas Emergency Services 0800 111 999 or a local Gas Safe Registered Engineer to check for the source of carbon monoxide
  • Get medical help for anyone suffering from symptoms of CO poisoning

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning

The main symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are:

Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms: persistent headaches

Persistent Headaches

Having persistent dull headaches and tension type headaches.

Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms: dizziness

Dizziness

Having waves of dizziness or feeling light headed and off balance.

Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms: nausea/vomiting

Nausea / Vomiting

Feeling like you need to be sick (nausea) and actually being sick (vomiting).

Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms: stomach pains

Stomach Pains

Pains in your stomach or lower abdomen, sometimes accompanied by diarrhoea.

Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms: difficulty breathing

Difficulty Breathing

Sudden shortness of breath or difficulty breathing (dyspnoea).

Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms: tiredness

Tiredness

Having no energy or feeling tired, sleepy, lethargic and sluggish.

Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms: sudden collapse

Sudden Collapse

Sudden collapse, seizures or loss of consciousness.

Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms: confusion

Confusion

Confusion, difficulty concentrating and becoming easily irritated.

CO detector false alarms

A false alarm is when your CO detector alarms and where no carbon monoxide is detected by your engineer. There could be several reasons for this:

  • The carbon monoxide detected did not come from your own appliances but may have seeped through the walls or floor from a neighbour. Check if your neighbours have fuel-burning appliances that might emit carbon monoxide Carbon monoxide might escape from chimney stacks allowing carbon monoxide to enter your premises via a joint loft space.
  • The replace-by date may have been exceeded. CO alarms become erratic once expired. This is the most common reason for false alarms.
  • Excessive moisture from a bathroom may set off your CO alarm. CO alarms should not be installed in areas with excessive steam.
  • Lead acid battery chargers produce hydrogen gas which sets off CO detectors. Keep this in mind if you are charging your caravan/boat battery at home.
  • Freshly screeded floors emit a gas that sets off carbon monoxide alarms.
  • The carbon monoxide alarm that you have installed may not be suitable for the type of premises, for example if it is installed in a caravan, tent, boat or living quarters of a horsebox you will need to ensure that your alarm is Kitemarked to BS EN50291-2. Alarms tested to BS EN50291-1 are only for use in home environments and are not suitable for camping and caravanning.
  • On rare occasions if here is a heavy smoker in a room that is poorly ventilated the CO from smoking may trigger an alarm.
  • Homes that are adjacent to very busy roads may experience higher levels of CO in the home when windows are open as traffic fumes may enter the room and set your alarm off.
  • The sound that your alarm is making may not be the alarm sound to alert you that there are dangerous levels of CO present. Most alarms have several audible sounds to indicate things such as low battery warning or that there is a fault with the alarm. When you install an alarm read the user manual and get to know what the different sounds indicate. Keep the manual safe so that you can refer to it should the alarm go off.

Buying a CO detector

You should have a carbon monoxide detector in every room where there is a solid fuel burning appliance. Only chose CO detectors that have met the rigorous testing standards of the European standard EN50291. That way you will have peace of mind that this vital alarm has been manufactured and tested to the highest standards.

If you are looking for a CO detector that you can also take on holiday, for caravanning, camping or using on a boat look out for ones that are Kitemarked to BS EN50291-2. The only other consideration is if you would like a detector that gives you a visual display of CO levels.

Digital Carbon Monoxide Alarm - Kidde 7DCO
  • FREE delivery
  • Product Life: 10 years
  • Battery: replaceable AA alkaline batteries included
  • Warranty: 10 year warranty
  • Displays CO levels from 10ppm
  • Peak Level Memory - recalls highest CO levels
  • Ideal for domestic use and camping, caravans & boats
  • Kitemarked to BS EN50291-1 and BS EN50291-2
£16.91 inc VAT
£14.09 ex VAT
Buy Now
                                        

If you are unsure if you have the correct carbon monoxide alarm installed our customer care team are here to help. You can call them on 0800 612 6537 or email support@safelincs.co.uk.

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.

Latest Posts by Angie Dewick-Eisele

A Guide to Fire Safety in Offices26th February 2021
CO Detectors and ‘False Alarms’16th February 2021
Safelincs Celebrates the Return of Furloughed Staff6th July 2020

Smoke Alarm Beeping in the Night – A New Help Guide

Smoke alarm beeping in the night and keeping you awake? Whether you have a mains powered, interlinked smoke alarm or a battery powered smoke alarm, follow our guidance below to troubleshoot the beeping.

What sound is your alarm making?

Alarm is sounding continuously

  • First check there is no smoke or fire in your property
  • Make sure the beeping is definitely coming from your smoke alarm. Other alarms in the property such as a carbon monoxide alarm or burglar alarm could be responsible for the noise.
  • Clean the alarm if it is dusty or dirty. Vacuum around the alarm or use a hairdryer to blow out dust on a cool setting.
Replace by date on the back of a smoke alarm
Replace by date on back of smoke alarm
  • Check the replace by or manufacture date on your alarm. Smoke alarms usually last for a maximum of 10 years, so if the manufacturing date is approaching 10 years or more than 10 years, it’s time to get a new alarm. Sensors inside the alarm deteriorate after this time causing the alarm to be less effective.
  • Check the position of your alarm. There are different types of smoke alarm suitable for specific locations in your home. Find out more below about positioning your alarm.
  • Your smoke alarm may be damaged or have developed a fault. Exposure to water, fire, grease and certain types of paint can cause a fault to develop.

Alarm is beeping intermittently

  • Replace the battery* in your smoke alarm. Ensure you are using the correct battery type and are inserting it the correct way around. If the battery is low, it is more likely to sound at night as a drop in room temperature can impact the battery’s ability to power the alarm.
  • Check the manufacture date on your alarm. Smoke alarms usually last for a maximum of 10 years, so if the manufacturing date is approaching 10 years or more than 10 years, it’s time to get a new alarm. Sensors inside the alarm deteriorate after this time causing the alarm to be less effective.
  • Your smoke alarm may be damaged or have developed a fault. Exposure to water, fire, grease and certain types of paint can cause a fault to develop.

* All new or recently extended homes should have mains powered, interlinked alarms fitted which also have a back-up battery. Intermittent chirping in mains-powered alarms is often caused by low power in the back-up battery.

What to do next

Suspect a fault?

If you suspect your smoke alarm has developed a fault, replace it as soon as possible. If you bought your alarm from Safelincs, you may be covered by warranty as all of our alarms have a minimum guarantee of 5 years. If you need a new smoke alarm, browse our range of battery smoke alarms or mains powered alarms.

Need replacement batteries?

Smoke alarms usually require either Alkaline AA batteries, an Alkaline 9V battery or a Lithium 9V battery. Buy replacement batteries for your smoke alarm as soon as possible.

Mains powered smoke alarm need replacing?

Mains powered smoke alarm beeping in the night

Whether your smoke alarm is mains powered or battery powered, it should be replaced after 10 years due to a deterioration of the sensors. Battery alarms are easily changed and installed, but how do you replace a mains powered alarm? Most mains powered alarms can be replaced without the need for an electrician if you purchase an Easichange® replacement head.

Replace BRK 600 or 700 series Smoke Alarm
Help with a Ei / Aico mains powered Smoke or Heat Alarm

Discontinued alarm need replacing?

If you need to purchase a replacement alarm, but find that your existing model has been discontinued, you can check our replacement models guide to find the closest match.

Smoke alarm positioned correctly?

The type of sensor an alarm has determines where it should be positioned in the home. False alarms may be due to the wrong alarm type being used in or near a steamy, dusty or smoky environment.

  • Heat alarms are more suited to areas such as the kitchen or garage that are often smoky or dusty. Other types of sensors would be prone to false alarms in these areas.
  • Optical smoke alarms are ideal for bedrooms, living rooms and ground floor hallways.
  • Ionisation smoke alarms are ideal for use on landings, but will be prone to false alarms if located near a kitchen.

To avoid causing false alarms or affecting the performance of an alarm, it is good practice to avoid installing alarms in the following locations:

  • Next to a door, window, air vent or fan that would create a draft
  • Outside
  • Anywhere that airflow would be obstructed by curtains or furniture
  • Locations that are steamy or humid such as a shower room

Find out more about positioning your smoke alarm in your home or take a look at our help guides for more information about types of alarm sensor.

Always ensure you act as quickly as possible to change or replace a defective smoke alarm or you could be endangering lives. If you require any further assistance, contact our customer service team on 0800 612 6537 or email support@safelincs.co.uk.

New Passive Fire Protection Resource

passivePassive fire protection (PFP) is a broad term that covers a myriad of products and concepts. As part of our desire to provide the best service and resources to our customers, Safelincs has published a comprehensive help and advice section covering all aspects of PFP.
Broken down into a series of targeted guides, this help and advice resource builds on questions raised within our fire safety forum, where passive fire protection has always been a hot topic. Specific areas covered include building regulations, compartmentalisation, furniture labelling, intumescent materials and much more.
Passive fire protection is an essential part of fire safety and is intended to help delay the spread of fire throughout a building. The integration of PFP into the fabric of a building is a legal requirement in newly built or modified properties and all commercial or public buildings.
However, there are also steps homeowners can take to slow the spread of fire throughout their property. Our guide introduces products such as fire retardant sprays which can be used to treat items like bedding and curtains to increase their fire resistance.
If you have a specific or general question about passive fire protection, our new help section is sure to contain the answer. By building on the questions raised in our forum, we have been able to tailor the information provided to the needs of real people and respond to genuine questions that relate to PFP. This gives our new PFP help and advice section a level of relevance to everyday life that is seldom found in fire and safety guides.