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5 Common Fire Hazards in the Office

Fires in the workplace can have a devastating impact on businesses. The potential loss of data and even lives can mean that some organisations never recover from a fire. Office environments provide numerous fire risks and if a fire starts, it will spread very quickly if there are no fire protection systems in place.

Minimising the risk of office fires and trying to prevent them is very important. The first stage is to identify the key fire risks associated with this particular environment. Here are five of the most common office fire safety issues and how you can take steps to protect your business.

Damaged power cords can result in fires

Offices typically have a whole host of electrical equipment including computers, monitors, photocopiers, printers, lamps, kettles and other appliances. Over time electrical wire casing can become damaged and worn exposing the wiring inside. This carries the risk of electric shock as well as sparks, which can catch onto flammable materials and start a fire.

To reduce the risk of a fire starting due to damaged cabling, the wiring for all electrical equipment should be inspected on a regular basis and replaced if it is becoming worn.

Combustible materials present in the office

One of the reasons that fires spread so quickly in offices is due to the abundance of combustible materials. Loose paper, discarded packaging, waste bins and furnishings provide plenty of fuel for fires. Add into the mix highly flammable adhesives and aerosols and it’s clear to see why offices fires can quickly become so devastating.

Although the risk created by these materials cannot be completely removed as many of these items are necessary in the workplace, it can be significantly reduced by taking steps to keep the office tidy and free from paper and packaging.

Any waste should be collected regularly and stored securely outside the building so it is not allowed to build up. Where possible, a clean desk policy should be adopted and papers stored away in filing cabinets unless they are needed.

Care should be taken when using flammable liquids and aerosols. Staff should be made aware of the potential danger and safe usage. If possible, usage should be restricted to a separate room and these materials should be kept away from sources of heat at all times.

Soft furnishings such as sofas are becoming more common in offices. These are often made of flammable fabrics, which can burn rapidly. When choosing furniture for your office ensure it is compliant with legislation on fire resistant materials and manufacture. This also applies to desks, as there are now many fireproof desks on the market and opting for these reduces the amount of flammable materials in your office.

If a fire does break out, having an appropriate type of fire extinguisher on site is essential to catch fires early on before they get the chance to spread.

Blocked walkways and fire escapes can delay evacuation in a fire

It’s essential that all office corridors and walkways are kept clear so that access to fire escapes is not restricted, which could delay the evacuation of a building. Furniture, waste and other objects must not be placed close to or in front of fire doors, as these must be easily accessed at all times.

Staff vigilance is a must to ensure that these safety guidelines are followed and proper training should be given to educate employees on their role in preventing and reporting fire hazards.

Extension leads overheating present a threat of fire

Improper use of extension leads carries a risk of electric shock and fire. Overloading electrical sockets can cause them to overheat and burst into flames. For this reason extension leads should only be used if necessary. Attention should be paid to ensure that these are evenly distributed and that not too many appliances are plugged in and in use at once.

As with all electrical equipment, extensions should be bought from reputable suppliers to guarantee that they are safe for use. If you suspect that an extension lead is faulty or is overheating, you should stop using it immediately.

Fire dangers of computer equipment and laptops

Computers play a fundamental role in the majority of modern offices. Generally speaking, they are considered to be very safe and not present much of a fire risk. However there are a few fire safety considerations associated with the use of computers and measures that you can take to protect your office.

The main issue is due to the heat that computers produce and the potential for overheating. Although there are mechanisms built into computers to cool them down, these can fail. Therefore you should make sure that papers and other combustibles are kept at distance from monitors and CPUs so that they are not ignited.

Laptops can also present an issue if they are placed on soft surfaces (such as the office sofa) for a long period of time. This is because the cooling vents are usually based on the bottom of the laptop and blocking these means that the laptop is more likely to overheat. For this reason laptops should only be used on hard surfaces such as desks and breathing space allowed so the cooling systems can work properly.  

All employees should be instructed to turn computers and monitors off when they leave the office at the end of the day. This reduces the risk of a fire starting in the office after hours when there are less likely to be people around to raise the alarm.

Fire Risk Assessments are essential to preventing office fires

All offices and workplaces are unique, so it’s important to have a proper risk assessment on your premises to establish the potential for fire to break out and how to combat this.

Euro Fire Protection are fire protection specialists and can provide a full fire risk assessment  for your business premises. Call now on 08000 515 199.

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What Types of Fire Alarm Systems Are There?

Installing a fire alarm system in your premises is absolutely essential to protect your company and your staff against fire. There are of course many different types of fire alarm systems available, from basic conventional non-addressable fire alarms and detectors to fully programmable fire alarm systems. You must think very carefully when deciding which type of fire alarm system you choose, to ensure that the system you pick best suits your fire safety requirements and follows current fire safety legislation. The system you choose will vary greatly depending on several factors the foremost of which arises from your fire risk assessment and then includes your budget, the size of your premises and the needs of the people present.

By law all fire alarm systems should conform to British Fire Safety Standards, so if you’re not sure, get a qualified fire alarm specialist to check that your system complies.

Conventional Non-addressable fire alarms

These systems serve their purpose of detecting fire and then sounding an alarm to warn the occupants of a building about the danger. Conventional fire alarms systems work by having automatic detectors wired on separate circuits (each referred to as a zone) to a central control panel. In multi-story buildings the design will depend on the grade and/or category of a system. Ideally there should be detectors placed throughout each floor, though where a lesser specification exists then the design should pay particular attention to areas where there is a greater fire risk such as kitchens or where flammable materials are stored.

When a fire is detected the alarm should sound and the control panel indicates the zone. This should help detect the location of the fire so that it can be isolated quickly. Conventional fire alarms are best suited to smaller premises.

Analogue addressable fire alarm systems

For protecting larger buildings against the threat of fire, analogue fire alarm systems would be more effective than a conventional alarm system. These systems are wired up to a central control unit that can pinpoint more accurately the exact location of the fire as they display a specific text location description for each detector or alarm device. They also reduce the risk of false alarms as there is more control possible over monitoring systems.

Wireless fire alarms

These can be either addressable or non-addressable system. As the name suggests wireless fire alarms do not require wiring up so are perfect for situations where it may not be possible to install cabling, such as listed buildings or museums where this may appear unsightly. These alarm systems are easy to set up so can be installed on a temporary basis if a short term solution is required. They can have a range of up to 1.5km so are suitable for all size buildings. This is particularly useful for example; in building sites as construction progresses – the alarm system can be moved if necessary. The advantage of these alarm systems is that you are not tied down to one physical location.

Very Early Smoke Detection Apparatus (VESDA)

In situations where it’s critical to know immediately when a fire occurs, VESDA systems are essential. These systems monitor air and can detect smoke before it is even visible. This gives valuable extra time which can saves lives and minimise the impact that fire has on property.

Special fire alarms for deaf and voice alarm systems

Some fire alarm systems are designed specifically for people with hearing difficulties. They allow the alarm system to be connected up to a pager, which will automatically vibrate and send a message in the event that the fire alarm is activated. These have a range of 10,000sq/ft and are suitable for both commercial and industrial use.

Large, busy areas that have several exits may require specific fire evacuation instructions can have voice alarm systems installed, with either live or pre-recorded announcements to provide safety information in the event of a fire. These would be highly recommended for public places such as shopping centres, hospitals or prisons.

Testing and maintaining your fire alarm system

Fire alarms are designed to save lives, so it’s incredibly important to ensure that they are working properly at all times. All systems should be tested on a weekly basis and regular inspections must be carried out by a professional fire alarm technician.

For all your fire alarm system installation, maintenance and servicing needs – contact Euro Fire Protection today on 08000 515 199.

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