5 Office Fire Risk Assessment Steps [Complete Guide]

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Recent statistics from the Fire and Rescue Service show that they attended 143,625 fires in the past year.

Although these figures represent a 21% decrease in total fires over the last 5 years, this figure is still incredibly high. So, it pays to be entirely updated with the latest fire safety regulations, including having an office fire risk assessment in place.

Under the Fire Safety Order 2005, businesses are legally required to complete regular fire risk assessments. But what comprises a robust check, and who should carry them out?

TL;DR – 5 Office Fire Risk Assessment Steps

To ensure your office fire risk assessments are up to legal standards, they should consist of five key steps. We will cover each step in more detail shortly.

But if you don’t have time, here they are:

  1. Fire hazards
  2. People at risk
  3. Evaluate and act
  4. Record, plan, and train
  5. Review the assessment

According to the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, competent personnel should only carry out checks such as fire risk assessments.

A competent person is someone trained to the NEBOSH National General Certificate standard. Use TSW Training’s 99%+ pass rate to increase the number of qualified personnel in your business.

Close-up of a businessman analyzing a report outdoors.

What is an Office Fire Risk Assessment?

Similar to a standard risk assessment, an office fire risk assessment is a robust review of your premises from a fire prevention perspective.

The review should look at all areas of your premises to ensure they are as safe as possible. Being “as safe as possible” means completing tasks like removing any hazards, ensuring escape routes are unobstructed and clearly signposted, and regularly reviewing safety equipment.

Benefits of Professional Over Internal Assessments

The UK legislation dictates that a risk assessment for fire safety should only be carried out by a professional, competent person.

As mentioned earlier, passing the NEBOSH National General Certificate grants you the competency to complete these specialist reviews.

There are several benefits to getting professional assistance like this when completing a fire risk assessment for an office.

But some of the core bonuses are:

  • Improved safety: By carrying out regular fire risk assessments, you can significantly reduce the risk of fire on your premises by working to avoid the most common causes of workplace fires.
  • Compliance with regulations: Several pieces of legislation are attached to fire safety, including the Fire Safety Order 2005 and Building Regulations. Non-compliance with these regulations can be extremely dangerous and costly. For example, Bupa was fined a record £1.04 million recently when an elderly resident tragically passed away in a fire at their Manley Court care home in Brockley.
  • Hazard identification: Training to become a competent person also means you will improve your hazard and risk perception skills. This can cover more unseen risks like faulty wiring or appropriately stored flammable materials and ignition sources.
  • Tailored recommendations: Having trained personnel carrying out your office’s fire and safety risk assessments ensures that you get more structured, bespoke guidance for keeping your premises safe.
  • Robust emergency preparedness: Professional input can also offer the peace of mind that your preparedness drills are up to standard.

Fire station's training equipment displayed with educational backdrop.

Roles and Responsibilities in Office Fire Safety

The legislation we outlined earlier dictates that the employer, business owner, or landlord is responsible for complete office fire risk assessments.

However, they also state that the responsible person can implement a fire warden to safeguard the fire safety standards on their premises.

It’s the duty of the fire warden to complete regular office fire risk assessments. But, they should also schedule regular maintenance of fire detection systems and conduct fire drills.

In the event of a fire, it’s also the responsibility of the fire warden to coordinate with emergency services and ensure all staff are clear of the building by being the last to leave and conducting a final sweep of the property.

Firefighters using a ladder truck to tackle a building fire amid smoke.

5 Office Fire Risk Assessment Steps

A robust and compliant office fire risk assessment should consist of five core steps.

1. Identify Fire Hazards

General fire safety hazards consist of three core elements – a source of ignition, heat, and oxygen. But they could also be defined as anything that could start a fire.

Some combustible materials to focus on are:

  • Electrical equipment 
  • Smoking 
  • Arson 
  • Heating 
  • Cooking 
  • Housekeeping 
  • Contractors

2. Determine Who is at Risk

Everyone on your premises is at risk of fire. Because of the contents of most office spaces and the proximity between rooms and floors, fire can spread quickly. 

But when considering who is at risk from a fire in your office, you should also consider elderly and disabled staff or those unfamiliar with your premises – maybe customers, visitors, or contractors.

Some other points to consider when completing step two of a fire risk assessment in your office are: 

  • People working with loud machinery may not be able to hear the fire alarm systems. 
  • Anyone sleeping on the premises. 
  • Employees who work abnormal hours or in isolated areas of the building
  • Are there any children in the office?

A firefighter ascending stairs during an active fire situation.

3. Evaluate and Act 

After reviewing the hazards on your premises and defining who might be at risk, attention now starts to shift towards prevention and control measures.

An optimal approach to step three is to split it into proactive and reactive responses. For example, what can you do to mitigate the fire risk? And what processes should be implemented to keep people safe in the event of a fire?

To reduce the chance of a fire, remove as many of the hazards identified in step one of your risk assessment as possible. Unavoidable risks should be mitigated wherever possible. One example of this is ensuring any flammable materials are stored safely away from potential ignition sources.

In step three of an office fire risk assessment, the next stage is implementing measures to help keep people on your premises safe. Areas to consider here are: 

  • Are fire detection systems in place and working? 
  • Are there any areas where a fire could start undetected?
  • Who will call emergency services?
  • Do you have enough firefighting equipment around the business to tackle small blazes?
  • Are emergency exits clearly signposted and free from obstructions?
  • Is there a designated place of safety for all exits on the property?

4. Record, Plan, and Train

Step four is all about ensuring everyone in the office understands their roles and responsibilities in preventing and reacting to a fire.

The UK Government has confirmed that, as the responsible person for your business, you must:

“Keep a written record of your fire risk assessment if your business has 5 or more people.”

However, even if you employ less than five people, we recommend recording your assessment’s findings for complete coverage.

At this stage, you will also strategise your emergency preparedness strategy and appoint a fire warden to ensure evacuations run smoothly. These evacuation plans should make allowances for any visitors, contractors, customers or other guests on the premises who may not be aware of the procedure.

Training your business’s fire warden to the NEBOSH National General Certificate level will empower them with the knowledge to create robust fire safety strategies.

Acting on the findings of your fire risk assessment is, obviously, incredibly important for safety standards. However, not acting after your assessment can also land the business owner in hot water.

For example, although not directly linked to an office, letting agent Douglas & Gordon Ltd were fined £100k for failing to act on a fire risk assessment when a fire broke out in a block of flats.

5. Review the Assessment

The final step in the process is for the responsible to schedule further reviews. You should schedule fire risk assessments annually in low-risk environments like a standard office space.

However, reviewing your office fire risk assessment is also recommended when your premises or business goes through significant changes.

These could include:

  • A change of premises
  • Large intake of new employees
  • Changes in property content, e.g. are you now storing more flammable or hazardous materials on site?
  • Following any large building works or extensions.

Plus, a further office fire risk assessment is required following a blaze or near miss. These checks will help ascertain how and why the incident occurred.

Firemen in protective suits carrying equipment indoors.

Fire Safety Risk Assessment Checklist

A comprehensive fire safety risk assessment checklist should cover 12 specific areas:

  1. Is there a detailed fire strategy plan?
  2. Escape routes and exits
  3. Handling flammable or hazardous materials under COSHH guidelines
  4. Firefighting equipment
  5. Employee training – Do you have a competent person trained to follow the NEBOSH National General Certificate standard?
  6. Fire drills, evacuations, and other exercises
  7. Emergency communication plan
  8. Maintainance of fire safety systems 
  9. Collaborating with authorities 
  10. Coordinating emergency response
  11. Compliance with the Fire Safety Order 2005
  12. Regular reviews

Boston Fire Department responding to a building fire.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Here are some frequently asked questions about office fire risk assessments.

Who is Responsible for Completing an Office Fire Risk Assessment?

The employer, business owner, or landlord is responsible for carrying out an office fire risk assessment. However, they can also call on the expertise of a competent person to carry out the checks.

Competent people are those trained at the level of NEBOSH National General Certificate.

Can I Do My Own Office Fire Risk Assessment?

If your premises are considered low risk – like many offices, you can carry out your own risk assessments. However, UK fire regulations dictate that you must be appropriately trained to complete office fire risk assessments.

When is an Office Fire Risk Assessment Required?

An office fire risk assessment is required at least once per year.

But you should also carry out these checks following a fire or near miss, after taking on large numbers of new staff, or when moving premises.

Conclusion

Office fire risk assessments are crucial for safeguarding the safety of your team. Fires are incredibly costly both in terms of personal trauma and your business’s finances.

Ensure you minimise the risks facing your premises by appointing a competent person to carry out your fire safety checks.

Passing the NEBOSH National General Certificate with TSW Training is the best way to create competent personnel in your business.

Plus, our 99%+ pass rate gives your team the best chance of completing the qualification quickly and easily.

Picture of Matthew Channell
Matthew Channell
Matthew is TSW Training’s Commercial Director. He writes about performance focussed learning, leadership, and management approaches that have real-world, sustainable impact.
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