5 common fire safety mistakes most office managers make (and the simple steps to avoiding them)

21 May 2021

If you’re a busy office manager, checking the fire safety requirements for your commercial building is normally one of the last things on your mind. 

With so much to think about, like constant emails and endless calls, it can be easy for regular fire safety checks to slip off your to-do list.

The hectic day-to-day, hustle and bustle of the office can mean corners are cut and fire safety best practices aren’t followed as rigorously as they should be. 

The demands of office work mean this has likely happened to everyone at least once. Fire safely drills have slipped to one side whilst you finish your quarterly reporting. 

If this is the case don’t panic. The key is spotting when the fire safety plan for your commercial building is slacking and moving to correct the issue as soon as possible. 

With so much going on though, it can be hard to identify the warning signs you need to look out for that’ll let you know you need to sharpen up your fire safety game. 

Keep an eye out for these 5 common fire safety mistakes we’ve listed below. Spotting any one of these is a strong indicator that the fire safety plan for your commercial building could be reviewed and refreshed. 

The 5 common fire safety mistakes most office managers make 

Your equipment is everywhere and not always in the right place

If asked, could you walk straight over your office’s nearest fire extinguisher? Maybe you’ve moved it for a training session or it’s buried under a pile of coats. 

Treating your fire safety equipment like any other piece of office furniture is a common mistake we see office managers’ make. Important fire protection equipment like control panels and extinguishers can get lost in a constantly changing office.

As new people arrive and old staff leave your floors layout can change and this can leave your fire protection equipment in some odd places.    

You can avoid this mistake by having designated fire extinguisher locations in your office. As an office manager, setting up a regular checklist when you rearrange your desks, and placing fire protection equipment at the top of the list is a good idea. 

That will guarantee you never forget where your fire safety equipment is and it’ll help you keep on top of the fire safety plan for your commercial building.


Letting the office turn into a junkyard 

When you’ve got clients to think about and quotas to fill anyone can be forgiven for letting their personal workspace get a bit messy. If the entire company is fixed on a quarterly goal it can be easy to get caught up in the atmosphere and everything outside of your computer screen becomes a blur.   

This can lead to overflowing waste paper bins, piles of discarded boxes in hallways and a scattering of highly flammable adhesives and aerosols on desks and breakout areas.  

One of the reasons fire spreads so quickly in offices is the abundance of combustible materials that are left lying around. Combine that with exit routes blocked by rubbish and you have a building that is a real fire hazard.

You can’t remove this risk entirely, people have to work after all, but it can be managed and negated well with regular office wide cleans and personal responsibility. 

As an office manager a good question to ask yourself would be “Am I happy to bring a client into the office?”.

If the answer is no then it’s likely that the rubbish and clutter around the office could constitute a fire risk.  


The extension lead situation has got a bit out of hand

It’s the job of an office manager to make sure all staff have access to as many plug sockets as they need. With a considered office layout this should mean the minimal use of extension cords as overloading them can compromise your commercial buildings fire safety plan. 

That being said, it can be difficult managing staff who bring their own power cords in to charge phones, extra laptops, and other non-essential desktop appliances (No one needs a coffee machine on their desk).   

Improper use of extension cords carry an increased risk of electrical shock and fire. Overloading electrical sockets can cause them to overheat and burst into flames. 

If you see a spike in your office’s energy bill or a multitude of glowing screens dotted around the office this is a sign that liberties are being taken with extension cords. 

As an office manager an easy way to fix this problem is to set up a designated charging point in the office and have a strict no charging appliances at your desk policy. That way you can monitor who’s charging what and you disincentive people bringing in their own chargers. 

Alternatively, you could give every staff member a free socket on the understanding they don’t abuse it. 


Not everyone knows what to do in an evacuation

Everyone knows what to do in a fire right? We’ve done fire drills since primary school. If the alarm goes off just follow the leader, be calm, and wait in the car park until everything blows over.  

It might sound straightforward enough but in the heat of the moment people don’t always think clearly. And besides, your fire evacuation plan should cover more than just leaving the building.   

Staff member’s need to know who’s in charge of the evacuation, what they should do if that person isn’t there, are there any staff members that need assistance leaving the building, who should you call for help?

These are just a few of the things your fire evacuation plan should cover. If all your staff aren’t up to speed with this information then you have a compromised fire safety plan. 

Regular fire drills are the best way to solve this problem. They are required by law at least once a year but nothing is stopping you from doing more. Also, building in fire safety training to the onboarding of new staff members can get them up to speed with your evacuation drills quickly and efficiently. 


Keep an eye on the office temperature

The office thermostat has long been a battle ground between employees. One person’s hot is another person’s cold and many work hours have been wasted by staff member’s taking trips to and from the thermostat.    

You might find some resourceful staff members have got around this issue by bringing in their own space heaters. These small portable heaters are powered by electricity and in some cases gas!

Not only can they overload your sockets but if left near flammable objects the heat they emit can cause them to ignite after a period of time. Not to mention that they’re flammable objects themselves. 

If you notice that the office is feeling a bit like Spain, especially in the winter months, it would be wise to do a tour of the office and check who is using a personal foot heater. 

The best way to minimise the risk from these heaters is by banning them in the office. This may lead to a small mutiny however. If you are going to allow space heaters in the office to reduce the risk, keep them away from flammable objects, don’t allow them under desks, and always make sure they’re unplugged at the end of the day.


Don’t miss the mistakes

Keep an eye out for these common fire safety mistakes and you’ll be able to spot when your office or staff need a rule refresh regarding fire safety. Do you need some fire risk assessment advice for your business? Contact us to arrange a consultation.


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