Pandemic or not, businesses owners shouldn’t let fire safety fall by the wayside. Although your premises may be operating a little differently during COVID-19, you still need to attend to your legal requirements in regards to fire safety. Failure to do so could result in breaching the law and compromising the safety of your premises, assets and staff.
But perhaps you’re wondering if aspects of your fire safety procedures will need to be modified during the pandemic to adhere to COVID-19 guidelines? To clear things up, in this article, we take you through some key fire safety do’s and don’ts during the pandemic that will keep your business protected and legally-compliant.
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Is Fire Safety Still Important During Covid-19?
The answer to this question is – yes, of course it is! The risk of damage to property, people and premises still exists and so do your legal obligations as a business.
Regardless of whether your premises is staffed, partially-staffed or completely empty, you still need to fulfil your fire safety obligations – even if that does mean some modifications along the way.
10 Fire Safety Tips During Covid-19
If you’re wondering how COVID-19 is affecting fire safety procedures, then read on for some essential nuggets to keep in mind – and to ensure you implement.
- Do continue testing and maintenance of fire safety equipment. Ensuring that all alarms, extinguishers, signage and other fire safety equipment is in top working order is vitally important, and the testing and maintenance schedule you kept before the pandemic should still continue. Fire safety professionals, such as Fire Action, are counted as an essential service and are still there to serve businesses who require fire equipment maintenance and repair services.
- Do consider investing in remote fire alarm system monitoring. Many workplaces are currently empty or only partially-staffed, leaving many buildings vulnerable to arson attacks or simply lacking a person on-site who can be responsive to a fire. Remote monitoring could therefore be a godsend in these instances. These systems link up your fire alarms to an external system which can be accessed via an app or web portal. If the alarm is triggered, you or an external company will be alerted of this. This way, even empty buildings can still benefit from real-time responsiveness during a fire situation.
- Don’t leave electrical devices plugged in. If your business is currently closed, or at least unmanned for long periods of time, avoid leaving any electrical devices plugged in and/or charging.
- Do re-assess escape routes. Social distancing, and also the need for one-way systems in and out of rooms and buildings, may mean that your existing fire escape routes will need to be revised in line with these changes. Make sure that any new fire escape plans are communicated back to your staff members.
- Do revise your responsible persons/wardens. Fire safety wardens are a legal requirement for any business, and the correct number of fire wardens must correspond to the number of staff working. If the fire safety wardens are all working from home or shielding, then you will need to appoint and train new wardens as soon as possible. If your staff are now working split shifts in line with social distancing, ensure that there are fire safety wardens always present on both shifts.
- Do review your fire risk assessment. In line with any changes to staff numbers, office layout, escape routes, equipment maintenance, and other factors, it’s wise to review your fire risk assessment to pinpoint anything else that may need changing or refining during the pandemic. Any new revisions should be communicated to all staff, including any external cleaning staff.
- Don’t allow stock or waste to pile up. If you’re seeing a steady stream of stock and waste building up at your premises during COVID-19, either discard it or store it away as soon as possible. This excess material could otherwise pose an increased fire risk.
- Don’t let social distancing slow down an evacuation. In the case of a real fire evacuation, don’t allow social distancing to impede the speed or progress of an evacuation. You can devise new or increased escape routes, if possible, to help ease the flow of people evacuating, or simply ensure hygiene measures, such as hand sanitisation, are carried out at the fire assembly point once everyone is safely out of the building.
- Don’t carry out traditional fire drills, but do keep staff educated. It is acceptable to postpone planned fire drills in light of social distancing measures. However, in place of this, ensure that everyone is kept refreshed in their knowledge of fire drills. It’s up to you how you do this, but could take the form of online training over email or video conferencing. This is especially important if there are any new members of staff who have joined the business during the pandemic.
- Don’t wedge open fire doors. It may be tempting to wedge open fire doors to prevent people from touching handles, but this is not advised. Fire doors are a vital aspect of fire safety and are put in place to slow the spread of a fire. As such, keep fire doors shut but encourage hand washing and sanitisation, along with regular cleaning of the fire door handles to mitigate this risk.
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Need fire safety assistance in Kent, Bromley or Sidcup? Here at Fire Action, we’re BAFE-accredited fire safety experts, and can carry out installation and maintenance of fire safety equipment to legal standards. We also conduct fire warden training, carry out fire risk assessments and provide temperature monitoring access systems to keep your business safe during the pandemic. Get in touch to find out more.