Fire Safety in new and altered Offices is subject to the Building Regulations and the guidance for fire matters are dealt with by Approved Document Part B Fire Safety. Within that document appendix G and H there is 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 and this order lays down legal requirements, check them out at 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 web site. 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 risk are,
- Carelessly discarded smoking materials especially if it is allowed to come into contact with flammable items. A lighted cigarette end could take a long time to ignite the the item, at which time the premise could be unoccupied. Use signage and constantly broadcast the dangers to the staff. 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 have been subjected to misuse and occasionally an electrical faults on apparatus because they have not been serviced regularly. All electrical equipment should be tested annually and keep the staff informed of the possible dangers associated with the different types of equipment.
- Kitchenettes or tea rooms can be a risk dependent 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 photo copying 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 that 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 through 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 stop fires happening. Not only is fire training in most premises required under law it also makes sense, half an hour spent before the fire may prevent the fire in the first place and can save lives. 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 reasonable possible. Information to assist you, to achieve these aims, go to my page on How to Combat Arson
March 17, 2011[Last updated: May 14, 2016]