Return to work guidance and checklist
As your business begins to return to normal or "new normal", please remember that you must comply with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
This guidance will help keep you, your employees and other people at your business as safe as possible. It covers key areas of fire safety, regardless of your business type.
We understand that you will focus on preventing the spread of the virus. However, this cannot be at the detriment the fire safety within your premises.
Your fire risk assessment
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 requires you to carry out a fire risk assessment of your premises. This is an organised and methodical audit of your premises, the activities carried out there, and the likelihood of a fire starting and causing harm to those in and around the premises.
The fire risk assessment is a dynamic document that is subject to ongoing review.
When you return to work, you may need to review your fire risk assessment to make sure it is current and reflects the way your business now operates. Consider changes such as working practices, stock levels, alterations made to the premises and staff numbers.
Maintenance fire safety measures
There will always be differences, but principally your premises should be equipped with the following fire safety features:
- A means of raising an alarm in the event of an emergency
- A means of providing light in the hours of darkness or in areas devoid of natural light
- Means of fighting fires, such as extinguishers, fire blankets and a sprinkler system
Where the lockdown has disrupted the regular testing and maintenance of your fire safety systems, we recommend contacting your service engineers to conduct a health check of them. In any case a regular schedule of testing must be resumed and recorded in a logbook:
- Fire alarms - weekly
- Emergency lights - monthly
- Extinguishers - monthly
- Fire doors - monthly
Preventing fires from starting
The responsible person must reduce the fire risks where it is reasonably practicable to do so, and act upon the significant findings of the fire risk assessment.
Good housekeeping will lower the chances of a fire starting, so the accumulation of combustible materials in all areas of the premises should be avoided. Good housekeeping is essential to reduce the chances of escape routes and fire doors being blocked or obstructed.
The premises should be looked at critically to try to identify potential incidents and any acts or omissions which might allow a fire to start. For example, any situation that may present an opportunity for an arsonist, such as external rubbish bins placed too close to the building.
We advise that you ensure all portable electrical equipment, including items brought into a workplace by staff, are visually inspected and undergo portable appliance testing (PAT) at intervals suitable for the type of equipment and its frequency of use.
Fire safety training for staff
Your fire safety training should include arrangements and actions to be taken by your employees in order to safeguard themselves and other relevant people on the premises.
Regardless of whether your numbers of staff have changed, businesses must ensure that they continue to provide appropriate staff training.
If you haven't undertaken staff training for some time, make sure all staff know what to do in a fire situation.
If those people with specific tasks have not returned to work, ensure that other suitably trained staff are available.
You must consider the needs of lone workers and their fire safety.
Emergency routes and exits
The responsible person must ensure that routes to emergency exits from the premises and the exits themselves are kept clear at all times.
Emergency doors should be fitted with simple fastenings that can be readily operated from the side approached by people making their escape, without the use of a key or code.
If you're having to take on extra stock to cope with demand, you must ensure that at no point should escape routes be compromised.
You should ensure that any measures you take to deal with risks posed by COVID-19 do not involve discounting exits that would ordinarily be available. Escape routes and exits should be available at all material times.
Do's and don'ts
Do's (prior to opening):
- Update your fire risk assessment
- Refresh and retrain staff in fire safety procedures
- Check all fire safety systems work properly
- Consider an interim service or health check of fire safety systems where applicable
- Have the right amount of staff with the correct skills to implement fire safety procedures
- Block escape routes
- Lock fire exits
- Prop fire doors open
- Remove fire doors
- Allow rubbish or stock to pile up anywhere inside or outside of your premises
- Reviewed your Fire Risk Assessment
- Updated your Fire Risk Assessment. The list below is not exhaustive, but changes that require an update of your fire risk assessment include:
- A change in staffing levels (up or down),
- A change in stock levels (up or down),
- A change in evacuation procedures,
- A change in how the building is used,
- A change in the layout of the building
- Taken steps to prevent the chances of a fire starting and spreading? This will include:
- Making sure all electrical items work properly and have been or will be checked by someone trained to do so,
- Preventing the build-up of combustible stock. This also applies to empty boxes and rubbish in general; you will need to take steps to reduce the risk of arson,
- Making sure that all fire doors are closed and not wedged open.
- Made sure your fire detection system and emergency lights are still in good working order?
- If the systems have not been checked for the period of lock down there is no need to catch-up on those checks. However, if your premises has manual call points we would advise that all are tested prior to occupation. This way any faults can be picked up and addressed sooner rather than later.
- If the lock down prevented the annual servicing of your fire safety systems, you should rebook if you haven't already done so. If the lock down did not impact on the service, but your systems have not been regularly checked, then it might be prudent to consult with your engineer to see whether an “interim” service or health check is needed.
- Made sure that at all material times there are employees on site to safely carry out all fire safety procedures, especially where there has been a reduction in staffing levels.
- It is acceptable to temporarily adapt your procedures, but at no point should this compromise the safety of yourself, your employees or any other person that may be on the premises.
- Conducted a full, practical, fire safety drill
- This is good to refresh your employees training, but also see what works and what does not prior to members of the public being present
If you need any further guidance please email: [email protected]