Last August we wrote a blog post about fire prevention in the workplace and we’d like to follow this up with five easy fire safety tips. There is a clear set of fire safety legal guidelines for any office environment. And the technicalities of these health and safety requirements are the responsibility of your office’s fire safety officer. However, there are certain things everyone should be doing to ensure your office is protected from fire and that it prepared in the event of a fire. This article offers helpful advice, but none of it should take the place of official health and safety guidelines. Think of these tips as a fire safety side dish, as opposed to the main course.
Tip 1: Don’t Allow Waste Paper to Build Up
Even though most offices are making an effort to print off less and less documents, it is still inevitable that paper is going to build up over time – whether this is as piles of reports on people’s desks or as scrunched up balls in wastepaper baskets. In the event of a fire, paper won’t burn for long, but it will burn quickly, helping the fire spread and catch on material that will burn for longer, such as wooden desks, textile chairs, and carpet. Try to clear your office of unnecessary paper at the end of every day. If you do not have a cleaner, you could make a rota so that a different person is responsible for this simple task each day. It is also a good idea to enforce an empty desk policy at the end of each day. Not only does this keep your office space tidy and presentable for visiting clients, but it also prevents piles of [flammable] paper building up over time.
Tip 2: Turn Off Appliances Before You Leave
Just as it’s a good idea at home, it’s also advisable that you turn off all your electric appliances at the end of each workday. There could be an electrical surge or electrical malfunction that causes a fire to ignite. And if this happens when no one is around to notice, the fire could spread throughout the office before the fire service arrives. It is a good idea to establish a rule that the last person to leave the office each day must turn off all the appliances, computers, and light switches. To ensure this is easy for your employees and that they carry out this task thoroughly, it is a good idea to have a checklist for them to follow.
Tip 3: Keep Warm Appliances Away from Flammable Materials
Perhaps this sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how many fires have been caused by people making this simple mistake. Paper and textiles are especially flammable, and appliances such as computers, printers, photocopiers, space heaters, coffee makers, etc. can all become a fire risk if situated too close to flammable material. If you adhere to Tip 1, then there should significantly less paper around to catch fire.
Tip 4: Do Not Overload Your Circuits
Not overloading circuits is the responsibility of the fire safety officer. But they can’t be everywhere at once and busy office workers will improvise with their available plug sockets if they do not have enough at hand. Overloading circuits can happen so easily in an office space as there are usually many different appliances that require the use of a plug socket (such as PCs, monitors, desk lamps, fans, etc). As any business grows to fill its office space, it can quickly become difficult to avoid using multiple power extension cables to meet everyone’s needs. If you overload your sockets it can cause them to overheat, which can lead to an electrical fire. Electrical fires are incredibly dangerous and they are difficult to fight. If your office space is running low on plug sockets, talk to your office space provider and request that they fit more sockets to match your needs.
Tip 5: Keep Doors Closed
It might not seem like much of a safety tip, but keeping doors in your office closed can help to severely impede the spread of fire. Obviously, it’s good (and healthy) to air out your office, but once you’ve done this, make sure you close all your doors. This way, if a fire starts on one room, the alarm will sound and the fire will be restricted to just one room whilst the fire fighters make their way to your office.
This tip is especially relevant in the event of a fire, as people fleeing a fire, obviously frightened, often leave doors wide open behind them. Remind staff of your official fire safety drill regularly, and tell them to close (but not lock!) doors behind them when they exit each room on their way out of the building. Closing doors can in a fire can not only prevent it from spreading further – it can also slow down the supply of oxygen fuelling the fire.
You can go a step beyond this and invest in some of K&D’s fire curtains. These curtains can be set to close as soon as any local warning system has been triggered or for there to be a time delay allowing everyone to exit safely. Fire curtains prevent fire from spreading past them for up to two hours. This protects the rest of your office space, your employees’ safety, and it buys the fire service enough time to get to your premises and fight the fire before it spreads any further.
There are so many things you can do to make your office space protected from fire and prepared in the event of a fire. We hope you’ve found this article useful and that you will share with other people in your office. If you you’re interested in enhancing your office’s fire safety measures with the use of fire or smoke curtains – or indeed fire shutters – please don’t hesitate to contact the experts here at K&D.