COVID advice

We know this is a very difficult time for everyone, including businesses, but it is vital that your business, and the people working for you, remain safe from fire.

We’ve put together the following advice so you can keep your business, and those within the premises, as safe as possible.

Premises Re-Opening

As some businesses across the UK begin to return to their workplaces, measures will be being put in place to deal with the ongoing situation surrounding Covid-19.

Before reoccupying the premises, it is really important they are safe. Not only from the risks associated with Covid-19, but from risks associated with fire and general health and safety.

You need to make sure any changes you make within your premises during this time do not negatively impact any preventative or protective control measures you have in place to deal with any other risks.

Review your fire risk assessment – If there have been changes in the way your business is operating (including fewer people within the premises than normal) this should be recorded, and any necessary measures should be taken to reduce any risks identified. Covid-19 restrictions have seen some businesses bringing in one-way systems and barriers to help with social distancing for customers. Any control measures for Covid-19 should be carefully considered by your fire risk assessment before being implemented, especially where control measures for Covid-19 could impact means of escape.

Review your evacuation procedures – Are there enough staff members to assist with evacuation as necessary? (roll calls, fire warden sweeps, moving/assisting residents etc.) Are you evacuation procedures impacted in anyway? Are all of your evacuation routes still available? (including any routes shared with other businesses).

Review your fire safety arrangements – You should consider the impact Covid-19 has on your fire safety arrangements. Such arrangements could include other people such as training providers, testing and maintenance companies and other external companies or persons.

Review & provide staff training – We know some businesses have taken on temporary staff to cope with demand. You need to ensure temporary staff and existing staff are aware of general fire safety within the premises, for example not overloading plug sockets, reporting identified issues, keeping escape routes clear etc. You also need to ensure they are familiar with evacuation procedures and any role they are required to carry out during an evacuation.

Check your escape routes – check exit doors open as they should, that shared means of escape and all signed escape routes are available. Make sure escape routes are free from obstructed.

Do not wedge open fire doors – we know people are worried the virus may be transmitted via surfaces that are regularly touched such as door handles. We cannot stress enough how important it is to NOT wedge open fire doors. We ask you to focus on cleaning door handles/ push plates regularly or, if your premises are equipped with automatic fire alarm systems, suitable hold open devices that release on activation of the fire alarm. Fire doors are a very important part of protecting people within a premises.

Carefully manage extra stock and keep escape routes clear – Storage of extra stock should be considered by your fire risk assessment. You should make sure stock is not in close proximity to ignition sources, or too close to smoke detectors or sprinkler heads as this could affect their operation. You should also make sure stock is not obstructing any escape route(s) and that escape routes are kept clear at all times.

Testing & maintenance of fire safety systems – Including fire alarms, emergency lighting, fire extinguishers, sprinklers etc. These systems need to be kept in good working order. You should make sure no faults are displayed, you have carried out your in-house routine system tests and system maintenance is up to date before re-opening.

Premises not fully re-opened or still closed.

If your premises are still closed at this time or are only occupied by a small number of staff, please consider:

Staff working from home – Encourage staff to consider fire safety within their homes and test their smoke alarms. Lots of information about fire safety in the home can be found on our website.

Arson – Extra care should be taken if your premises are vacant. Ensure the premises are secure and any combustibles left externally are removed from site or stored securely. Do not store combustible items close to the premises and consider external deterrents such as external lightening and CCTV.

Consider lone workers – With fewer people working within the premises you should consider if your fire detection and warning arrangements are still suitable to alert lone or fewer occupants.

Shared means of escape – If your premises have a shared means of escape securing your premises should not affect the means of escape from other premises which are still open, (Including residential buildings) or where wayleave agreements are in place.

Maintaining fire safety measures – Internal fire protection measures such as fire doors should be kept closed. The maintenance and testing of the fire detection and alarm system should be continued where it is possible and safe to do so. This should be prioritised based on the risks identified by the RP and their Contractors e.g. Fire in the shop, now closed, affecting the residents in the flat above. Where the fire detection and alarm system serve multiple premises, (some of which may still be operating) it should be ensured that the system still provides the required level of cover to all areas. Arrangements should also be put in place to access closed areas of the building if maintenance is required

Advice from the National Fire Chiefs Council

The National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) have produced a document which contains some FAQ’s around fire safety and Covid-19.

They’ve also produced some guidance for schools.

Need to speak to us?

If you have a specific question about fire safety within your premises during Covid-19, that isn’t answered above or have a concern relating to fire safety within a premises, please email tfs.cs@syfire.gov.uk and a fire safety inspecting officer will get back to you.

We’ve also developed a Return To Work – Fire Safety Checklist for businesses which may be of use.

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This content was last updated on July 02nd, 2020