Covid-19: Fire Safety Procedures For Returning to Work

Lockdown easing measures are in place, and while you might be planning on reopening your business and returning to work with social distancing and hygiene measures to help combat Covid-19, fire safety should also be at the forefront of your mind.

There are many elements of fire safety to consider at this point – including a fire risk assessment – and in this article, we’re going to cover a range of areas to evaluate and re-establish to help protect your business and those in your building.

Postponed Fire Safety Checks

Like many businesses, you may have postponed maintenance and annual checks on your fire safety equipment. Fire alarms, emergency lighting, sprinkler systems and fire extinguishers all need regular maintenance to ensure they are fully operational and that you comply with your legal obligations.

If you have missed scheduled maintenance appointments, or even if your building has been left unattended for a long period, then it is now essential to have checks and maintenance carried out before staff return. This puts you in a good position to reopen and will ensure the safety of those staff members returning to work. 

If you’re not returning to work and want to delay maintenance appointments, it must be listed on your fire risk assessment.

Unoccupied Buildings

Many businesses continue to operate at a reduced capacity, so ensure that any unoccupied buildings are regularly checked and any electrical equipment is switched off and unplugged where possible. Fire doors need to be closed and it is important to monitor any waste storage that may be a potential fire risk.

Where buildings will remain unoccupied, consider whether any reduced maintenance of the fire equipment could pose a fire risk.

Is Your Fire Risk Assessment Still Valid?

A fire risk assessment is now more important than ever. It’s possible that in the months where your business was not operational, your fire assessment became invalid – either due to a year having elapsed or due to changes you’ve made within your building and your business. 

Now is the prime time to have a fire risk assessment carried out as there may be changes to your building, operations, staff numbers and other processes due to Covid-19 safety measures.

Here are just some of the ways in which safety measures might have impacted your business, warranting a review of your fire risk assessment to bring it up to date:

Have You Moved Operations Within Your Business?

While your previous fire risk assessment was carried out in accordance with your operations at the time, you may now be putting different areas of your building to different uses to help with social distancing and allowing staff to work safely.

Should you be putting buildings into temporary use, you will need to consider how this impacts your fire risk assessment. Are there flammable materials or fuels which now need reviewing with safety measures? Is there sufficient fire safety equipment to deal with any potential risks in new areas of the building?

Have Staff Moved For Social Distancing Purposes?

With the guidance on keeping 2 metres apart at all times still in place, to uphold this you may need to move staff or relocate them within your building temporarily. This will also mean a review of your fire risk assessment as it might mean different emergency procedures are needed. Whether this is evacuation routes and procedures or responsibility for different safety measures, your fire risk assessment will help you to determine these new arrangements.

For businesses that may have specialist evacuation or fire safety measures in place, for example care homes or healthcare facilities, ensure that you operate with sufficient staff levels to maintain your fire safety procedures. Where staff numbers are required to be reduced, you will need to review your fire risk assessment. 

Do any Social Distancing Measures Obstruct Exits?

Covid-19 is most easily transmitted through the air or via touch, which has meant a lot of new equipment and temporary structures being added to buildings. Whether this is in the form of plastic stands to allow staff to work in close proximity to others, screens which are lowered from a ceiling or as boxes of masks and other PPE items, it’s important to ensure they’re accounted for on your fire risk assessment. The assessment will mostly be concerned with whether these new additions block or obstruct evacuation and exit paths. Exits should always be clear and a fire risk assessment may be able to offer guidance in this respect.

At Elite Fire Protection, we have continued to work with businesses to ensure that they remain safe and compliant with fire safety regulations during the Covid-19 pandemic. We provide fire risk assessments for those businesses who have either missed their annual assessment or require a new one to cover changes to their operations. As always, we continue to follow up-to-date guidance from the UK Government, the Fire Industry Association and BAFE to help keep you, your staff and your customers safe.

Contact us for your updated fire risk assessment and our professional team will assist you in booking your assessment around your schedule.