Data Centre health and safety management – how are you managing yours?

Victoria Teer 2022

Victoria Teer
16th February 2022

Managing a multi occupied premises certainly has its complications when it comes to the division of health and safety responsibilities. We have witness first-hand the complexities of getting this right in a variety of different multi-tenanted offices over our 30 years of providing workplace health, safety, and environmental compliance services.

With the traditional computer room transformed into vast Data Centres, the clarity on responsibilities is paramount to the critical function of each data hall. However, the responsibilities in many ways though are far more entangled than the traditional office block.

The best place to start is determining the type of Data Centre you operate. This will dictate your lines of responsibility. With a scale Data Centre, much like the traditional office block, each data hall will have an individual tenant/customer. Importantly here once you step into that data hall, it’s the tenants/customers space. They are responsible for this area and all that take place within it.

If you are managing a Data Centre that is hosting co-location halls, it is a totally different arrangement with the entire hall being your space that your tenants/customers may visit and hold equipment and information within, but ultimately you are entirely responsible for this space.           

With one of my specialisms being fire safety, I’m fully aware ‘co-operation and co-ordination’, with clear lines of communication being key in managing fire safety, as detailed in Part 2 Article 22 of The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order. Furthermore, the new Fire Safety Act now has ‘clearer accountability and stronger duties’ for those responsible for the fire safety throughout the building’s design, construction and occupation - all be it for high-rise buildings.

But quoting acts and articles is one thing, putting this into practice when risk assessing is a different skill. Are you confident your risk assessments cover all they need to and/or not covering areas out of your control? Some questions to consider to see if you are on the right path in knowing your areas of responsibility:

Data Centre hosting co-location halls:

  • Do you have an induction process for all visitors to the Data Centre to make sure anyone unfamiliar with the building knows your fire procedures?
  • Would you know if an individual with a disability is within your data hall that that may require assistance to evacuate?
  • Does your fire risk assessment include your data halls and for example consider your suppression systems and how these integrate with any hot/cold isle containments that may have been installed in your data halls?

Data Centre containing ‘scale’ halls:

  • Have you requested a fire risk assessment from your tenant/customer for their hall(s)?
  • Does your permit to work system make sure that any alterations your tenants/customers make to their data hall does not impact on the compartmentation of the escape routes in your demise?
  • Do you discuss fire safety matters formally in tenant/customer meetings?

Data Centres are a fast-paced environment, with often limited numbers of staff, so being experts in this field we can support your organisation in the most efficient way, and make sure there are no blurred lines of responsibility. Yes, ‘the customer is always right’ but be careful you know your rights too. You may even wish to let your tenants/customers now about the support we can provide directly to them; it certainly involves calibration to ensure the safety of every type of Data Centre.   

We can provide a complete compliance program from determining your current state of play and responsibilities via a health and safety management review, to performing specific risk assessments, Legionella, fire and noise risk assessments for the particular areas of your Data Centre. Other services that are very popular are closed water management reviews, computer room audits, water and air quality assessments and health and safety assessments.