Nobody imagines their office will suffer from a fire. . . and to be honest, the level of preparation often reflects this. Previously in the UK, fire certificates were handed out by the fire services, but as of 2006, businesses are required to carry out their own fire risk assessment.
This fire safety risk assessment can be broken down into 5 sections:
1) Identify potential fire hazards
2) Investigate who would be in danger if a fire broke out
3) Evaluate the potential risks and hazards in the office and examine what can be done to limit these issues from being a problem.
4) Create a fire safety document detailing the actions taken - let your employees know of your findings.
5) Keep the fire safety risk assessment under review and revise as necessary.
So what kind of things should you be on the look out for when you fill out your business’ fire risk assessment form? The most likely cause of fire in the office is of course the abundance of electrical equipment the modern workspace is equipped with. All electrical equipment should be tested annually, and extension cords should not be a full time solution. Likewise, make sure not to overload power sockets. If you don't have enough outlets for all the electricals, you should move onto a bigger a place rather than jeopardising the safety of your current workspace. It's also important to warn staff of the risks involved with the electricals, so make this part of your fire safety documents.
While you're explaining that to the members of staff, it's a good idea to make them aware of the procedures in case of fire, and maybe plan one or two drills to make sure their fire safety is ensured. Indeed, all new members of staff should be given an outline of the procedures as part of their induction. Things like fire escapes, corridors and routes may seem obvious, but it's a situation of not being possible to be too careful.
If your office (or office block) has a full kitchen and dining area attached, then the likelihood of a fire is a lot higher. If food is left cooking unattended, the risks involved are greater still. The whole environment can be made a lot safer if you ensure that there is someone present in the kitchen at all times - or at the very least when someone is using the available facilities.
Store rooms may seem an unlikely location to be considered on the fire risk assessment form, but you could be surprised. With photo copying equipment and stationary potentially stored alongside potentially flammable liquids. Keeping the area neat and tidy will reduce the risk of fire considerably. Tidiness is actually something which should be considered throughout the office in relation to fire safety - if you keep things neat, and clear then there will be less fuel for flames to spread easily, should the worst happen.
Keeping the place tidy will also make an evacuation all the easier and considerably less risky. If you have items in the corridors, stairwells and exits, then the chances of slips, falls and injury are greatly lessened should there be a need for a rapid getaway.
It's hugely important to keep a list of emergency numbers nearby. Sure, everyone knows 999, but getting in contact with staff members who are missing could save a life. Staff should also have a good knowledge of where all the fire extinguishers and alarm points are. It goes without saying, but heavy fire-doors should never be wedged open, no matter how inconvenient it may be - they can't do their job if they're being permanently held open.
The majority of offices have the same kinds of fire risks associated with them, and unless you work in an exceptionally dangerous environment, your fire risk assessment form will need to encompass the sort of thing covered here. Use this and your own common sense, and you should have your fire safety documents sorted, and the satisfaction of knowing you're prepared against the worst.
Iain Mackintosh is the managing director of Simply-Docs. The firm provides over 1100 legal documents and small business templates covering all aspects of business from holiday entitlement to fire safety documents By providing these legal documents (with content provided by leading commercial lawyers, HR and health & safety consultants) at an affordable price, the company intends to help small businesses avoid costly breaches of regulation and legal action.