Did you know that 86% of businesses that suffer from fires never recover and go out of business?
Any type of fire is devastating, but a fire happening to your business can result in the loss of valuable assets, structural damage to your building, and loss of life.
It is the responsibility of everyone in the office to minimise the risk of office fires and ensure that your business stays protected.
Let’s look at fire safety in the workplace and five ways you can reduce the risk of fire at work.
Fire safety in the workplace regulations
The primary regulation concerning fire safety in the workplace is The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 in England and Wales. In Scotland, fire safety is covered by the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 and the Fire Safety (Scotland) Regulations 2006.
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 ensures that workplaces in the UK are prepared for fire and that everyone is trained and equipped to respond safely and effectively.
Key points of the regulation include:
- Identifying who is responsible for fire safety in the workplace and making sure all employees know what to do in an emergency
- Carrying out fire safety risk assessments to identify any potential hazards
- Putting fire safety measures in place, such as fire alarms, fire extinguishers, and emergency lighting
- Keeping records of assessments and fire safety measures to ensure compliance with the law
- Ensuring cooperation and coordination with other relevant people, for example, landlords and other businesses in the building
Who is responsible for fire safety in the workplace?
The responsible person is generally the person who runs the business or owns the building. However, the responsible person may nominate a duty holder to look after fire safety on their behalf.
The responsible person or duty holder identifies safety issues, carries out risk assessments, and ensures that any relevant work is carried out, either in-house or by a third party.
How often should fire alarms be tested in the workplace?
Fire alarms should be tested in the workplace once a week and thoroughly tested every six months by a specialist engineer.
How often should fire safety risk assessments be carried out?
Fire risk safety assessments should be carried out once a year.
Your fire risk safety assessment should be re-reviewed if circumstances change, for example, you extend your building or there is a change in business activity.
Five ways to ensure fire safety in the workplace
We’ve looked at who is responsible for fire safety; now let’s look at some fire precautions you can take in the workplace.
1. Protect your appliances
According to the London Fire Brigade, one in three fires are caused by faulty electrics.
Over time, electrical appliances like photocopiers, monitors, heaters and microwaves can become damaged, increasing the risk of them malfunctioning. It only takes one spark from a damaged appliance to cause a fire.
Visually check appliances regularly and do not use them if cases are dented; you can see scorch marks or frayed cables.
PAT testing is an ideal way of testing your electrical appliances in the workplace and making sure they do not pose a fire risk or will cause an electrical fault.
2. Keep clutter to a minimum
Whether in the office or factory, messy rooms mean more combustible materials, which can pose an increased fire risk.
Encourage your staff to clean up as they go, and empty bins regularly. Waste should be stored outside in a lockable container until it is ready for collection.
Dust and grease can lead to electrical equipment overheating, so it’s essential to thoroughly clean your equipment regularly. Store any flammable cleaning liquids in a lockable cupboard when not in use.
3. Watch your sockets
Make sure that you have an adequate amount of sockets for each room in the workplace. Overloading plug sockets or using too many extension cables can increase the risk of electrical fires.
You should carry out an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) every five years in offices and every three years in factories. This ensures that the electrical installation in your building is safe and functioning as it should.
4. Keep your emergency exits clear
You need to keep corridors and walkways clear so people can exit the workplace safely without causing bottlenecks if there is a fire. Regularly check paths to ensure they are not blocked, and don’t leave items in front of fire doors.
Regular fire drills will help ensure that exits are clear and keep staff informed of your fire procedures.
5. Train your staff
Even though the responsible person and duty holder are responsible for fire safety in the workplace, everyone needs to work together to reduce the risk of fires.
At induction, make staff aware of how to use electrical equipment safely (for example, turning computers and monitors off at the end of the day) and what they need to do in the event of a fire.
If you have staff that smoke or vape, they must do this away from the building and safely dispose of cigarettes and matches.
Fire wardens can help guide everyone to safety and check for people left behind during a fire. If your business is low risk, you need one fire warden per 50 staff. If your business is high risk (for example, you work with combustible materials), you need one fire warden per 15 staff.