It’s amazing how many potential fire hazards we can come into contact with at our workplace without even realising it. From the computers we work at, to the breaks we take, right down to our employer’s having a good evacuation plan in place that everyone knows; it doesn’t take much for us to make sure we aren’t missing anything, if we take the time to be observant in our day to day work. Here we have put together a run through of a typical day in the office, and all the small things you could keep your eye out for.
8.30am: You arrive at your desk, ready for the day ahead. You take your coat off, hang it up, sit down at your desk, switch your computer on, perhaps even the printers and photocopiers if you are the first one to arrive. Maybe it’s even your role to turn kitchen appliances on and make sure the office is ready to go when the majority of employees arrive for the day, or you could even have arrived early to make yourself some breakfast.
– Are the plug sockets which connect your computers or the photocopiers overloaded? If you work in a shared space, often extension leads will be used to connect two or three computers. If you then add in phone chargers etc you could have a potential fire hazards
– Are any of the wires ragged or fraying? It is not uncommon for wires around office chairs to be rolled over repeatedly which can cause damage. They should be secured out of the way and regularly checked to ensure they are intact.
– Where have you hung your coat? It is blocking a heater or in a safe place away from any potential hazard?
– If you go into the kitchen; are all the appliances switched off every evening? Have they got an up to date PAT sticker to show they have been assessed and are safe to be used?
– Clean toasters regularly for crumbs – these can accumulate and catch fire quickly.
10.00am: You’ve been diligently working for an hour or two when the dreaded fire alarm goes off. You know it’s just a test so you grab your bag and head out with everyone else to wait outside.
– Do you know your company’s evacuation policy? Are you just following the crowd or would you know an alternative exit if one became unsafe?
– Do you know where to congregate once the building has been evacuated?
– Don’t hang around. Even if you know full well the alarm is just a drill, practice getting out of the building as quickly as possible. Packing up all belongings etc can cost valuable time.
– Do you know who the designated fire wardens are? They will have been trained as to what to do in certain situations.
10.15am: Whilst you are waiting for all clear to go ahead to be let back into the building, you decide to take your smoking break early. It’s a bit windy so you walk around to the side of the building to stand by the fire exit (your usual spot) to get some shelter from the elements.
– When you usually come for a break, do you prop the fire door open? This is a major fire hazard and should never be done. Even for short periods of time. Propping open doors in general can cause a fire risk so be wary of this.
– Are you smoking in the correct designated area? In some places of work it is essential that you only smoke where permitted due to flammable vapours being released.
– When you extinguish your cigarettes, are you making sure it is done properly, especially so close to the building? Simply dropping a cigarette on the floor could cause rubbish or dry leaves to catch alight and fire to quickly spread.
12.30pm: Lunch time. You go into the kitchen and heat your dinner in the microwave then return to your desk to eat it whilst having a quick browse on the internet.
– Once again, being in the kitchen, make sure all appliances are PAT tested regularly and carry the sticker to show they are safe.
– Not everything is microwave safe – check any dishes/materials before you heat them up, and keep any eye on them!
– Having food and especially drink around electrical appliances is a risk, if the drink were to spill it could cause serious problems.
2.00pm: You head into a conference meeting with several other colleagues. You’ll be making notes independently so many of you have brought laptops and phones into the meeting. The person taking the meeting has also asked you to set up a projector in advance of their arrival.
– Make sure none of the sockets are overloaded and that all wires are safely out of the way
3.00pm: Time to print off the mail for the day. Ensure that the printer or photocopier is turned on and print away.
– Is the printer/photocopier in good condition? Is it turned off when not in use? Are the wires in good condition without any damage?
– If there is a jam whilst you are printing, ensure that it is cleared promptly. Jammed paper can cause fires in printers and should never be left unattended to.
5.00pm: Home time. As is your custom, you set out the files for the following day and clear your desk so it is ready to go.
– Have you stacked your files too high? Are they likely to tumble over in the night onto electrical equipment? Any heavy items that need to be cleared away should be stored close to the floor and should never exceed the safe load capacity of shelving/storage.
– Have you made sure all computers/printers/electrical sockets are turned off?
– Before leaving, have you double checked that no heaters are blocked and that everything is clear and as it should be?
The idea of this is not to make you afraid of everything in your office but to show that it doesn’t take much to ignore what can become a significant fire hazard at work. So stay safe in the office, don’t ignore any potential hazards and all business owners should ensure an up to date fire safety assessment has been carried out.