Fire Safety in new and altered offices is subject to Building Regulations, and the guidance for fire matters are dealt with by Approved Document B Fire Safety Volume 2. Within that document, Appendix G details a list of other guidance documents that may be relevant.
When premises are occupied, fire precautions are controlled by The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 which lays down the legal requirements, a summary of which can be viewed using the above link.
Fire Safety Guide for England and Wales
The most appropriate guide for offices is likely to be Guide 1 – Offices and shops and can be downloaded at the Department of Communities and Local Government website. This guidance gives advice on how to avoid fires and how to ensure people’s safety if a fire does start. It only applies to England and Wales and it does not set prescriptive standards, but provides recommendations and guidance for use when assessing the adequacy of fire precautions in offices and shops. Other fire risk assessment methods may be equally valid to comply with fire safety law.
This guide is for all employers, managers, occupiers and owners of offices and shops. It tells you about how you might comply with fire safety law, helps you to carry out a fire risk assessment and identify the general fire precautions you need to have in place. This guide is intended for premises where the main use of the building or part of the building is an office or shop. It may also be suitable for the individual units within other complexes, although consultation with the other managers will be necessary as part of an integrated risk assessment for the complex.
Offices are considered to be a moderate fire risk and fires usually occur as the result of somebodies carelessness. The risks are similar to those in day schools however the level of risk varies as a result of the number of occupants and the time the premises are occupied.
The five principle risks are:
- Carelessly discarded smoking materials, especially if they are allowed to come into contact with flammable items. A lighted cigarette end could take a long time to ignite other items, at which time the premises may be unoccupied. Use signage and constantly broadcast the dangers to staff and visitors. A no smoking policy should be adopted throughout the premises with designated smoking areas for staff and as a result these areas can be supervised closely.
- Electrical appliances can be a source of fire if they haven’t been serviced regularly and are suffering from an electrical fault or have been subject to misuse. All electrical equipment should be tested annually and staff should be made aware of the possible dangers associated with the different types of equipment.
- Kitchenettes or tea rooms can be a risk depending on what has been provided, especially if food that is cooking is left unattended. Full dining facilities and kitchens are a high risk but this is lessened by having staff in attendance at all times.
- A higher fire risk are storerooms; rooms where the photocopying equipment and stationery is stored, because flammable liquids may be present and a large quantity of flammable goods are stored with limited supervision. House keeping and ensuring the rooms are keep as tidy as possible will reduce the risk, this also applies to the premises as a whole. Also ensure the dangers are discussed at any training sessions.
- Tradesmen on the premises, especially those that use apparatus which is capable of starting a fire like blow lamps, gas torches, metal angle cutters, etc. One needs to ensure a high degree of supervision with suitable fire fighting equipment available during and after their presence. Give the area they have been working in a thorough inspection and make sure no hot spots or small fires have been missed.
During training sessions, as well as detailing and practicing fire procedures, some time should be devoted to emphasising simple fire precautions in an attempt to prevent fires from happening. Fire training in most premises is required by law and half an hour spent before the fire may prevent the fire in the first place, potentially saving a life. For further information go to Staff Fire Safety Training.
Arson is the single most common cause of fire in business premises and 45% of all serious fires are a result of arson. Much of this is not targeted and the vast majority of arson attacks are down to opportunist vandalism. Apart from the need to comply with the law the Responsible Person has a duty to himself and his business to reduce this risk to as low as reasonably possible. Information to assist you and to achieve these aims are detailed in our How to Combat Arson Guide.
March 17, 2011[Last updated: December 2, 2019]