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Fire Safety in the Workplace: the Basics

At Christmas time, it is not uncommon for organisations to get into the festive spirit and decorate the office. Perhaps your office has an artificial tree this year, covered in tinsel, baubles and fairy lights. Decorating the office for Christmas may seem harmless enough, but can actually be a fire hazard if done incorrectly.

The Health and Safety at Work Act states that it is the employer’s duty to ensure that staff and anybody else who may be affected by the actions of your business stays safe whilst under your management. Usually in shared premises, such as an office block, there will be more than one person responsible for fire safety, but ultimately you are accountable for the safety of your employees and anybody in your ‘zone’. Failing to enforce the correct procedures can have serious consequences.

Fire departments have been known to fine organisations for failing to comply with safety regulations. In Berkshire, a small business was fined £20,000 for various fire alarm issues and failure to have a risk assessment in place, whereas a global fashion retailed received the maximum fine of £400,000 after their Oxford Street shop was destroyed by a fire. Both of these situations could have been avoided had there been a proper risk assessment and sufficient staff training in place.

Although this may sound a little overwhelming, the correct steps to take to protect your business are surprisingly straightforward; starting with the enforcement of a fire safety policy to cover the basics, including risk assessments, safety equipment and fire training.

Law states that if you employ five or more members of staff (even if some of them work remotely) a regularly reviewed fire risk assessment is an absolute must. There are also a number of other duties that an employer is responsible for:

  • Carry out a fire risk assessment of the premises and review it regularly.
  • Notify employees of any risks found.
  • Put in place, and maintain, appropriate fire safety measures.
  • Provide staff with information, fire safety instruction and training
  • Have a plan in case of an emergency.

The damage that office fires can cause is underestimated, with over half of small businesses being forced to close in the 12 months following a fire due to extreme disruption. All the more reason to make sure you cover the safety basics and switch those fairy lights off before you go home at night.

Not sure where to start when it comes to fire safety? Harris Law can set you on the right path with our Health and Safety policies and advice.

Contact us on 01803 861086 or alternatively email us HERE.


Written by Tayler Waldock on behalf of Harris Law