Fire Safety

ITS HOT IN HERE! – a guide to fire safety in the workplace

Is it me?  Or is it hot in here?  Can you smell burning?  Oh that’s the fire alarm should we evacuate?

People hearing the fire alarm and staying in their offices and work areas as they think it is false alarm.

These are just some of the comments/ actions that have been seen before the sad reality of a fire taking hold and destroying part or all of the business.

Fire Risk Assessments: The best way to begin is to first go in for a thorough fire risk assessment of your business or company and use a checklist to ensure you have all the right parameters in place.
An average workplace fire costs UK businesses £28,462

An average workplace (public and commercial sector) fire costs £28,462

Fires at work have three main causes: *

  • They are started deliberately;
  • They occur because people are not alert to fire hazards
  • They occur because people are careless of fire hazards

Fire kills.

In Britain in 2012-13:

  • Fire and Rescue Authorities attended 192,600 fires
  • Of these fires, 22,500 were recorded in buildings that were not dwellings
  • In total, 17 fatal and 1,013 non-fatal casualties occurred in these fires **

Fire costs money. The costs of a serious fire can be high and afterwards many businesses do not reopen.

58% of workplace fires occur during the working day. (8am – 6pm)  ***

An average workplace (public and commercial sector) fire costs £28,462 ***

The above information is a frightening thought and this is why fire safety should be a priority for every employer and employee no matter what grade you are at.

To understand fire safety we need to look at the following;

What is Fire?

Fire is made up of three elements Air (oxygen) Fuel and Heat.  To extinguish a fire you need to remove one or more of these elements.

The likelihood of being killed directly by fire is relatively low, the highest risk factor from a fire situation is the exposure to smoke.

How does a fire occur?

Fire occurs when a source of ignition comes into contact with a combustible material.  Control all sources of ignition and you greatly reduce the danger of fire.

So what can we do to prevent fire occurring in the workplace in the first instance?

Fire Risk Assessment

From a safety management point of view managers/supervisors must ensure a Fire Risk Assessment has been carried out within their area.  (They do not have to do this themselves but they must ensure it has been completed for their area of responsibility)

A fire risk assessment will consider all the reasonably foreseeable hazards within your workplace.  It will then consider who will be at risk if a fire occurred.  It will also look at the emergency evacuation and fire fighting procedures.

The results of a fire risk assessment must be made available to all employees and third parties such as other employers who share the workplace.

The fire risk assessment should also be available for the fire officer during an emergency incident.

So, ask your manager or supervisor, has a fire risk assessment been carried out?

Business Continuity

Managers will also need to consider that if there were a fire, which stopped normal business operations, what would the procedure be to ensure business continuity?


So, as an employee, what can you do to minimise the risk of a fire and prevent its consequences?

  • Keep it Clean!  Ensure all rubbish is removed from the work area on regular basis and store items in their correct locations.
  • Only smoke in designated areas and ensure that matches and cigarette ends are disposed of in an appropriate receptacle.
  • Ensure flammable items are kept to minimum and stored in the correct location (where practical in a fire resistant store)
  • Do not bring in unauthorised electrical appliances.  Under the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 all portable appliances should be regularly tested.  If you wish to bring in a electrical item, it must be authorised by a manager and the appropriate test carried out before being put into service.
  • If you see a damaged electrical item take it out of service and ensure it is repaired/replaced.
  • Ensure items are kept away from heaters, radiators as forgotten items left on these can catch fire.
  • Keep Fire Escape Routes clear.
  • DO NOT wedge fire doors open.
  • Report any damage to fire exit/fire doors/fire extinguishers/hose reels.
  • Ensure any holes or voids in fire retaining walls are repaired.
  • Know what the fire evacuation procedure is.
  • Know where your fire alarm call points are.
  • Know where your fire extinguishers are.
  • Know where your fire exits are.
  • Ensure that final fire escape doors can open outwards in a single action.
  • Ensure you know when the fire alarm is tested.
  • If you cannot hear the fire alarm being tested report it to your manager/supervisor as it may be necessary to have some other form of notification.
  • Ensure gas cylinders are stored in suitable locations (ideally in a gas cage away from the main building).  Smoking must not be allowed near the storage area.
  • If portable heaters are used are they securely guarded in case they are knocked over?
  • All non-essential electrical items should be switched off (at the main socket) at night.
  • Do not overload electrical sockets.
  • Ensure your workplace is secure.  Numerous fires are started by arsonists.

What should I do when the fire alarm goes off?

  • Evacuate through the nearest fire exit.
  • DO NOT stop to collect personal belongings.
  • DO NOT stop to collect a drink or carry a drink with you.
  • DO NOT smoke (as the fire may have caused flammable gases to escape)
  • DO report to your assembly area.
  • DO report to the person in charge if you have reason to believe anyone is missing.

Remember as well as financial loss lives are at stake

What do I do if I find a fire?

  • Don’t Panic.
  • Raise the alarm.
  • Get out.
  • Stay out until authorised to return by a Fire Officer (or other senior authorised person depending on your site)

If you are the person who finds the fire please report the location to the person in charge of the evacuation and/or the Fire Officer so that the fire fighters can be directed to that location.

If there are any hazards in that area such as dangerous goods, gas cylinders, large amounts of flammable items please ensure the Fire Officer is informed.

Should I fight the fire?

This will depend on your particular situation and your role but the basic rule is, only fight the fire if you have been trained to use the fire fighting items (hoses or extinguishers) and are aware of the different types of extinguishers

DO NOT put yourself at risk always leave an escape route.  More people have been injured or killed trying to fight fires.  The most important thing is to raise the alarm and get out.

Equipment and buildings can be replaced people cannot.

By being aware of your surroundings and following the simple guidelines in this article you will on the way to making your workplace a much safer place.

If you need help with your fire risk assessments, or advice on training for managers and staff, please visit our website.

Sources and for more information:

* Guidance on Fire Safety at work. (Fire Protection Association/Office of the Deputy Prime Minster)

** Fire Statistics: Great Britain, April 2012 to March 2013

***Fire Safety an Employers Guide

**** Chubb

The information contained in this article is intended to a basic overview of health and safety management.  It is not designed to be a legal document, but a quick guide for readers to know where to look for relevant information.  Readers are advised that only following the information in this article may not lead to legal or best practice compliance in health and safety management.  Competent advice must be sought before following any advice in this article.  

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