Common Fire Safety Mistakes in the Workplace

21 February 2018

Workplace Fire Safety Mistakes – They’re Easy to Make But That’s No Excuse

Workplace fire safety is absolutely critical. Yet it’s something that’s regularly overlooked by employers, particularly those in smaller businesses. Employers need to be proactive by looking up workplace safety awareness tips and learning to recognise office safety hazards for themselves.

Here are some of the most common workplace fire safety mistakes that you really should avoid:

Unattended Office Heaters

The UK has cold, miserable weather. We know this. We understand why you need that extra heater in an old office building. But, the problem is that a lot of these commercial heaters make huge fire safety hazards, particularly if they’re not kept in clear, designated spaces.

Keep any equipment that emanates heat (this includes machinery) away from combustible materials and ensure they are in their own designated area. You don’t want people tripping over them! Also, check they’re switched off and unplugged when you leave the office.

Too Much Combustible Clutter

As I’ve just pointed out, combustible materials are dangerous when near heaters and the like. A build up of combustible materials like paper and cardboard in an office makes it so much easier for a fire to start and quickly spread. A disregarded cigarette or a bit of faulty wiring could ignite a blaze without much trouble.

Dispose of and recycle combustible materials properly. It’s worth storing masses of documentation and records in a digital format or up in The Cloud , as this will prevent the build up of paperwork in the first place. If you do this, ensure that you follow network security best practices.  

Unchecked Alarms

You may have gone to the best fire alarm companies in the UK in search of the fanciest fire system that money can buy. You may have then have had this fancy system installed and (probably) forgotten all about it. Of course, it’s important to get the best system you can for legitimate workplace safety reasons. However, a lot of businesses think that installing such a system means they do not need to check it or enforce other fire safety regulations in the workplace. This is untrue. Regularly check your alarms when you conduct fire risk assessments or by carrying out regular fire drills.

Overloading Power Sockets

Overloading power sockets is a common cause of electrical fires. Plugging too many appliances into one socket or plugging in appliances with faulty wiring can easily cause the socket to overheat and start a fire. It’s such a common fire safety hazard that it’s almost sad how easy it is to prevent!   Avoid using a socket for more than one plug or using appliances that total more than 13 amps or 3000 watts across the whole socket to minimise hazard potential.

Improperly Stored Flammable Materials

These are more commonplace in some workplaces than others, but a lot of offices do store flammable liquids or vapours in the form of bug spray, air fresheners, etc. Flammable materials are so dangerous because the slightest spark will cause them to go up in rather aggressive flames.

Ensure that any flammable materials are stored in a safe and secure area, away from heat and electricity.  

Open or Blocked Fire Exits

Too many people prop fire doors open, either because they can’t be bothered to keep pushing a heavy door or for air ventilation. This is terrible because firstly, fire doors are heavy for a reason – to contain fires – and secondly, because basic workplace health and safety regulations demand that you practice methods of air ventilation that should negate the need to prop open a fire door. For office health and safety tips on things like air ventilation, see KM Cleaning‘s blog on Preventing Office Illness in Winter.

Another major workplace fire safety no-no is blocking fire exits! This truly is ridiculous. We get that you hope you won’t ever need a fire exist, and therefore don’t see what the big deal is but trust us – it really is a bad a idea. Ensuring fire exits aren’t blocked could save lives in an emergency.

Keep fire doors shut and access clear! Not doing so is like laughing in the face of every fire safety regulation.

Failure to Provide Designated Smoking Areas

How often do you think the average smoker checks to make sure their discarded cigarette is no longer alight? Not as often as they should.

You can’t stop your employees from smoking or force them to check the diminishment status of their cigarettes, but you can ensure they have a safe and designated space to smoke. This will help reduce those fire safety risks in the workplace.

Irregular Fire Drills

One of the most obvious – and important – fire safety awareness tips: have surprise fire safety drills. Do not tell your employees whether it’s a real one or not – the whole point is to act as you would in a real situation.

Too many businesses neglect carrying out proper fire drills – which means that a lot of members of staff aren’t actually aware of the fire drill protocol. Enforce a proper plan and practice it, especially if you welcome any new staff members.

Minimal Fire Safety Risk Assessments

Fire risk assessments are required by law but many businesses neglect this legal necessity. You must regularly review you premises and conduct fire risk assessments. Doing so will help prevent the above fire safety mistakes from happening, as you’ll have taken the precautions which identify them and other, less obvious issues early on. You can’t expect a fire risk to always jump out at you – the Grenfell Tower tragedy is an awful example of that.

You can carry out a fire risk assessment yourself, or you can hire a professional safety and security company like KM Security Solutions to do it for you.

No More Procrastination – Fire Safety is an Action

As we explored in Fire Safety Needs an Active Approach, employers can’t just assume their businesses meets office fire safety standards; they need to actively enforce workplace fire safety regulations.

There’s no excuse for not taking precautions and avoiding these common workplace fire safety mistakes. Fire safety is a legal necessity that requires frequent, scrupulous attention.

Learn to spot these hazards to keep your business, your employees and yourself safe.

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