Essential Fire Prevention Rules for the Workplace Environment

August 10, 2016
Clock Icon 5 min read

It’s easy to forget the risk of fire when working in an office environment. It seems so harmless due to the absence of significant sources of heat, as opposed to – say – a commercial kitchen. But offices do carry risks that need to be carefully managed to prevent a fire from breaking out and harming not just the business, but also people’s wellbeing.

What’s My Fire Safety Duty?

As someone who works in an office environment, you have a duty to familiarise yourself with fire safety, including fire safety signs and fire exit locations and procedures.

Your company should offer you fire safety training or fire warden training if you’ve been designated as a fire warden or marshal, so you know how to prevent risks and know what to do during an evacuation.

You should understand where hazards may exist and where they might arise, as well as what to do to minimise these risks (such as with good housekeeping) and to report any issues you spot.

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Need a Fire Safety Training Course?

Our Fire Safety Training teaches you about the fire risks in work premises and what safety measures should be in place to control them.

We also provide Fire Warden Training which provides you with the necessary training required to be a qualified fire warden.

In addition to this, our Fire Risk Assessment Training is designed for people who are responsible for implementing fire safety procedures and carrying out risk assessments prior to a business opening.

What are the Common Fire Hazards in an Office?

People in an office environment should keep these 5 areas in mind:

  1. Heating
    • Small portable heaters being left unattended near flammable or vulnerable objects could start a fire.
  2. Cooking
    • Many offices have cooking facilities nowadays, whether it be an oven, stove, or microwave. Being left on, left unattended, and/or used unsafely can lead to a fire.
  3. Smoking
    • Discarded cigarettes that have not been put out correctly or have been discarded near flammable materials can start a fire, especially with the right conditions (dry weather and some wind).
    • According to 2020/21 statistics, collected by the Home Office of incidents attended by Fire and Rescue Services, over 1,000 fires in other buildings were caused by smokers’ materials and cigarette lighters.
  1. Electrical
    • The most likely cause of fires in an office environment: electrical fires may originate from frayed/damaged wiring, overloaded plug sockets, or faulty equipment.
    • According to the 2020/21 statistics, one of the main cause of fires in non-domestic buildings was faulty appliances and leads, which lead to around 1,700 fires.
    • Another primary cause was the misuse of equipment or appliances, which lead to approximately 900 fires.
    • The main source of ignition was electrical distribution.
  2. Refuse build-up
    • Failure to remove a build-up of cardboard boxes, paper, and other flammable refuse – especially near a fire route/exit – means more kindling and a blocked exit in the event of a fire: trapped people.

fire exit and extinguisher

Fire Prevention Rules:

  1. Heating
    • Avoid using open electrical bar heaters or halogen type heaters – oil-filled (radiant) radiators are a safer alternative.
    • Avoid placing heaters near flammable objects or under desks.
    • Keep heaters clear of any blinds/curtains/furnishings, etc.
    • Ensure that heaters with time-switches are not set to automatically come on at certain times, as it might do when people are out of the office.
    • Set a reminder to turn heaters off before you leave the office.
    • Ensure that you have a heater that will automatically switch off should it topple over.
    • Look out for staining or discolouration of the appliance or surroundings and discontinue using the heater if you see any. The same goes for any strange smells.
  2. Cooking
    • Do not leave food unattended during preparations.
    • Make sure you switch off equipment, e.g. an oven or microwave, after use.
    • Keep tea towels and other flammable materials well away from the stove or other heated appliances.
    • Ensure the oven, stove, and grill is kept clean, as a build-up of fat and food debris can cause a fire.
    • Do not place anything metal in microwaves.
    • Do not use microwaves as an additional surface (this blocks the air vents).
  3. Smoking
    • Make sure you fully extinguish cigarettes and discard of them properly.
    • Keep an eye on cigarette bins and empty them if they get too full (or notify whoever is responsible for doing so).
  1. Electrical
    • Make sure electrical equipment has a suitable conformity marking that indicates it has been manufactured to safety standards. From 1st January 2023, products supplied in Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) must be marked with the UKCA marking, or be accompanied by documentation that is marked with it. The supply of products with CE marking is allowed until 31st December 2022. Until then, it is permitted for new products to be either CE or UKCA marked. All new products supplied in Northern Ireland must have CE, or both CE and UKNI markings from 1st January 2022.
    • Follow manufacturer’s instructions when using a device/piece of equipment.
    • Use official chargers and cables for devices and equipment.
    • Don’t leave appliances charging unsupervised for a long time.
    • Don’t charge a battery that looks damaged.
    • Don’t cover up items when charging, as they emit heat, and keep them away from flammable materials.
    • Don’t leave appliances and equipment running overnight or when no one is in the office; make sure they are properly switched off and don’t have timer settings activated that could make them come back on when no one’s around.
    • Don’t overload sockets – outlets, extension leads, and adaptors have a limit to how many amps they can take.
    • Keep an eye out for burn marks or stains around plug sockets which suggest overheating.
    • Keep an eye out for frayed or worn cables and wires.
    • Keep an eye out for flickering lights, blown fuses, or circuit-breakers that trip for no apparent reason.
    • Always switch off your equipment at the mains when it’s not in use and unplug where appropriate.
    • Always ensure that damaged sections of cable is properly replaced – don’t simply repair them with insulating tape.
    • Report faulty equipment and take it out of use immediately.
  2. Waste build-up
    • Keep walkways and fire exit routes clear of flammable materials, such as cardboard boxes, paper, fabrics, etc.
    • Make sure it is properly disposed of/recycled away from the premises.

Do a simple check on a daily basis and remain alert to any hazards.

Remember: everyone plays a part in keeping their office safe, and following these simple prevention rules will ensure that no one ever has to face the flames of a fire or its devastating after-effects.

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