If you manage an office or workplace facility, part of your responsibilities may be ensuring your company’s space is compliant with state and federal fire safety codes. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Act, OSHA, requires employers to provide a safe working environment for employees and many states have their own workplace fire safety laws, too.
In order to comply with OSHA and other fire safety regulations, you must learn how to become and stay compliant. Luckily, there are plenty of resources and service providers available to help you do so.
Here are some tips to get you started in making sure your office or facility space is up to fire safety code:
Understand what you are responsible for
A common misconception with safety regulations is assuming that if you rent, your landlord or building management is the party responsible for making sure your space is fire safety compliant. In reality, even if you rent, 95% of tenants are responsible for managing the fire safety compliance of their space. This means that while your office may have sprinklers and alarms, the testing, inspection, and maintenance are the responsibility of your company—not necessarily your landlord.
If you're unsure, read through your lease agreement or set up time to speak with your property management. While researching, keep these basic fire safety categories in mind:
- Sprinkler system
- Fire extinguishers
- Fire alarms
- First aid kit
- Exit signs/lighting
- Annual inspections
Install or update fire alarms and extinguishers
Most offices, facilities spaces, or buildings will already have a fire alarm system in place. However, if an alarm system doesn’t exist or is out-of-date, the best option is to connect with a service provider. Service providers can help with installation, planning, budgeting, design, engineering, and expediting permits for a fire alarm system.
Buying a fire extinguisher on Amazon won’t make the cut for fire safety compliance for your office. Research the type and size of fire extinguisher for your space. Class A buildings, for example, require water fire extinguishers, while Class B buildings require foam. If you’re not sure, find out the type of building and the exact square footage of your space—you will need this info when determining the type and number of extinguishers to purchase.
Schedule inspection and maintenance
Purchasing and installing fire extinguishers and/or a fire alarm system is only step one. Next, you must have them inspected. For fire extinguishers, most laws require inspection by a licensed professional once a year with monthly inspections performed by a trained person on your team (or you!). If you’ve scheduled a service provider to go through routine inspection, include fire sprinkler and standpipe system service as well.
Office buildings are routinely visited by the state fire department. If your extinguishers, sprinkler, and alarm systems are not inspected, you’ll receive a NOV—Notice of Violation. You will typically be given 30-60 days to complete the inspection after the NOV or face additional fines.
Finally, locate your First Aid Kit and and make an inventory of its contents. Check to make sure nothing is expired and restock if necessary.
Find a service provider for testing and repair
The National Fire Protection Association mandates that fire alarm systems be tested on an annual basis, though local and state government agencies may require a more frequent cadence. Fire protection service providers have trained technicians to inspect, test, and repair virtually any type of alarm system.
In some states, emergency and exit lighting must be tested monthly by an office manager. If your office safety lighting has never been tested, ask a service provider to show you how and what to look for in case of repair.
Ensuring your office space is properly operating and compliant with federal, state, and local codes can feel daunting. Make sure to keep digital copies of inspection reports for your records in a cloud-based system. If you use Managed by Q, the Vendor management tool allows you to upload or reference important files easily. If you’re new to an office space or have no previous experience with fire safety training, Managed by Q can connect you with a vetted fire safety service provider that will make sure you office is up to code.