Fire risk assessment for offices

20 March 2023 AGF Fire Protection

Fire safety

Carrying out regular fire risk assessments in your office building is a legal requirement under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 and the associated Fire Safety (Scotland) Regulations 2006.

A fire risk assessment is designed to help your business implement safety measures that reduce the risk of a fire breaking out, and also introduces an emergency plan in case it does.

The responsible person 

If you are the owner or landlord of the office building, an employer, a facilities manager or a building manager, you are responsible for fire safety in your office building. You will be known as the responsible person, though there could be two or more of you sharing the responsibilities.

As the responsible person, it is your job to implement and maintain a fire management plan to ensure the fire safety of the premises you are responsible for. As part of that plan, your office fire risk assessment is designed to:

  • Identify fire hazards
  • Identify people at risk
  • Evaluate, remove or reduce, and protect from fire risk
  • Record abd plan
  • Inform, instruct and train staff
  • Review current fire management plan

Why do you need to be worried about office fire risks?

At the time of writing, the latest figures from the Home Office (to September 2022) showed there had been a year-on-year increase in the overall number of fires as well as an increase in the number of fire-related fatalities (to 276 from 249). It was reported that the Fire Service attended 13,695 non-residential building fires, but there is no further breakdown to help us assess how many of these buildings were offices. It is vital for the safety of your staff and visitors, as well as for the health of your business, that you take appropriate action to mitigate potential risks and prevent fire from breaking out.

It’s also worth knowing how long it might take for help to arrive in the event of a fire. The Home Office’s figures also show there was an increase in the average amount of time it took firefighters to reach the fire – 9 minutes and 11 seconds, which is 28 seconds longer than the previous year.

Fire prevention

The fire risk assessment is basically a fire prevention exercise. What happens at a fire risk assessment is that fire specialists spend time on your site putting together a detailed analysis of all the potential fire hazards and fire risks in your office building, and they then make recommendations on the actions you need to take to minimise those risks.
A fire can only burn if it has three elements. The first is a source of ignition – such as you’d get if your electrical plug socket started sparking. The second element is fuel, for example, paper, chemicals or gases. Oxygen is the final ingredient needed for a fire to burn. While oxygen is all around us, if a window was open next to something that had caught fire, it would exacerbate the problem. One of the most important parts of a fire risk assessment is therefore to identify situations where potential sparks and potential fuel need to be kept away from each other. To lessen the risk of electrical sparks, for example, a fire risk assessment will recommend PAT testing of all electrical appliances, as well as keeping paper and other combustible materials away from plug sockets.

In the event of a fire

The fire risk assessor will also take into account the needs of your staff, contractors and visitors. You need to be aware of any people who may require extra help in the event of an emergency, whether this is because of a disability, being unfamiliar with the premises, or because someone who is not familiar with the language might not understand instructions to evacuate.

The fire risk assessment will ensure your office building has adequate fire detection and warning systems that reach all areas of your premises. In the event of fire, people in even the most isolated parts of the building need to know if there is a problem.

The fire risk assessment will also look at the provision of fire doors and fire escapes. Fire doors will help contain fires in one part of the building long enough for people to evacuate the building.

Your fire risk assessor will also make sure you have adequate provision of fire extinguishers and fire blankets. Different types of fire extinguishers are designed to tackle different types of fires, so it’s important to have the correct extinguisher to hand if it is needed.

With so many lives at risk, your office fire risk assessment must be carried out by an experienced specialist. Contact us to find out more about fire risk assessments for your office as well as a range of fire prevention services.

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