A poorly maintained and ill-equipped workplace can be a dangerous place to spend 8 hours of your day. There are certain things you can, and should, do on your premises that will help to keep your staff, customers and visitors secure. In England and Wales, if you’re an employer, owner, landlord or occupier of business or other non-domestic premises, you’re responsible for fire safety, and are known as the ‘responsible person’.

As a responsible person, you must:

  • Carry out and regularly review a fire risk assessment of the premises

  • Inform staff or representatives of the risks you’ve identified

  • Put in place, and maintain, appropriate fire safety measures

  • Plan for an emergency

  • Provide staff information, fire safety instruction and training

Fire Risk Assessments

As the responsible person, you must carry out and regularly review a fire risk assessment of the premises. The idea behind a fire risk assessment is to identify what you need to not only prevent a fire, but keep people safe in the event of one. For businesses that have 5 or more employees, you must keep a written record of your fire risk assessment.

Your fire risk assessment should include:

1. Fire Hazards

A fire start when heat (a source of ignition) comes into contact with fuel (Anything that burns) any oxygen.

When looking for something that starts a fire, think about:

  • Heaters

  • Lighting

  • Naked flames

  • Electricals

  • Matches

  • Cigarettes

  • Any sources of heat

When looking for what could potentially burn, think about:

  • Packaging, rubbish, furniture

  • Petrol, paint, varnish, white spirit

  • Wood, paper, plastic, rubber, foam

  • Hardboard, chipboard or polystyrene in the walls/roof.

2. People at risk

If there is a fire, everyone in your workplace is at risk. In your fire risk assessment, you’ll also have to identify who is especially at risk. This could include staff that may not be familiar with the premises, visitors, the elderly, the disabled or children.

3. Evaluate and act

Evaluate what you have found, and act upon it to make your workplace safer. Think about whether you’ve kept sources of heat and fuel apart, have you protected your premises from accidental fire or even arson?

Scrutinise your list of fire hazards to check that you have eliminated them all, or made them as least threatening as possible, and work through your list of people at risk, making changes that ultimately put them less at risk.

4. Record, plan and train

Keep a record of any fire hazards you found, as well as what you have done to reduce the risk presented by them, or remove them. If you have 5 or more employees, you must keep a record of what you have found and done.

You must create and keep a clear plan of how to prevent a potential fire and include how you will keep your staff, visitors and customers safe in the event of a fire. For businesses who share a building, you will need to coordinate your plan with them.

Training your staff to know exactly what to do in case of a fire is a necessity. Ensure they all, or designated individuals, know how to act, where to go, how to use safety equipment and what to do.

5. Review

Keep reviewing and scrutinising your risk assessments. Over time, the hazards you found and fixed may have changed. If you find any hazards or make any significant changes to your plan, it is important that you repeat steps 3 and 4 – act upon the problems and inform relevant parties of it. Sometimes it may be appropriate to re-train your staff, depending on the outcome of the reviewed risk assessment.

What else can you do to ensure your office is safe?

Aside from your risk assessment tests, there are more ways you can ensure the security of your premises and staff, through scheduled maintenance and testing of your electrical systems and appliances, as well as your fire alarm systems, emergency lighting and fire extinguishers.

Test your portable appliances

The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 state that any electrical equipment that has the potential to cause injury or harm must be maintained and kept in a safe condition. PA Testing, conducted by a trained professional, checks for electrical faults or potentially dangerous electrical items in your workplace that could be deemed unsafe according to certain regulations.

Conducting a PAT every 6 months or year will not only give you peace of mind that your electrical appliances are safe, but also ensure you’re fully legally compliant.

Test your fixed wires

Much like with portable electrical appliances, all electrical wiring eventually deteriorates over time, but that is not an excuse that will legally stand up whilst explaining the cause of an office fire without proof that you are conducting regular and professional fixed wire tests to ensure that your wiring is in a safe condition and is unlikely to cause serious harm or injury. For more information on our fixed wire testing service, click here.

Ensure your fire alarm systems works

Dirt, dust and dead batteries are just a few reasons why over time, your fire alarm system could deteriorate, leaving you with a faulty system and no alerts of a real fire when you’ll need it most. British fire safety standards recommend that you get your fire alarms tested at least twice a year. This can include mains panels, batteries, heat detectors, smoke detectors, break glass units and sirens.

This ensures that even if all other preventative measures fail, you will always be alerted of a fire on your premises to give you enough to time to evacuate or handle it accordingly.

Don’t forget about your emergency lighting

Your emergency lighting is something you never really notice, until you come to rely on it. It’s important to have emergency lighting to ensure the safety and security of your business in the event of a fire.

Having your emergency lighting tested, at an advisable rate of once per year, will ensure that in the event of a fire you, your staff, visitors and customers, can all see when they’re evacuating the building or taking appropriate actions, and that signs point towards emergency exits for those unfamiliar with the building layout.

Test your fire extinguishers

Everyone hopes they never have to use a fire extinguisher in a real-life scenario, but if you do need one, it is vital that it works as planned. One way of putting your mind at rest about this, and fulfilling your legal and insurance requirements, is to regularly test your extinguishers. Bring in a trained professional to look over your extinguishers and get a quick audit to see if you have enough extinguishers for the size of your business, and the right type.

  • Solid red – Water

  • Red with a Cream Band – Foam

  • Solid red with a Blue Band – Dry Powder

  • Red with a Black Band –  Carbon Dioxide

  • Solid red with a Bright Yellow Band – Wet Chemical

  • Red with a green band – Halon

Protecting your premises from fire is something which has to be done. It is important to keep your staff, premises and visitors safe, but also to abide by all the appropriate legislation. Following the steps above will help you to keep track of the hazards in your workplace. They will also help keep your staff informed of procedures and training, and abide by all the right laws.