COVID-19 fire safety
The following is provided as guidance to assist employers and responsible persons (RPs) as determined in the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 to maintain fire safety precautions on their premises during the current Covid-19 crisis. It is only valid for the duration of the current situation after which it should be disregarded.
Review Fire Risk Assessments
Whether your business has decided to remain open or not, it may be experiencing changes in risk. As such, it will be necessary for RPs to arrange for the premises Fire Risk Assessments (FRAs) to be reviewed. If any doubt exists, then a competent fire risk assessor should be contacted for guidance and advice.
It may also be advisable to contact your insurers when considering changes to your risk assessment and any mitigation.
Even during periods when a building has been locked down, it is still important to consider the following:
In order to reduce the risk of arson, ensure premises are left secure, removing any external sources of fuel or ignition that are likely to cause fire spread.
If your premises has a shared means of escape (MOE), securing your premises during the current crisis must not affect the MOE from other businesses within the same building that have remained open, residential buildings or where wayleave arrangements are in place.
It is also important that current fire safety measures are suitably maintained. All internal fire precautions such as fire doors should be kept closed at all times.
The testing and maintenance of fire detection and alarm systems should continue where possible and safe to do so. This should be prioritised by risk, i.e. a fire in a shop, (now closed) affecting the residents in the flat above or a fire alarm system in a multi-occupied building where some of the occupants are still operating.
Scaling the risk
Businesses that remain open during the current crisis may experience increased demand, in which case the RP should consider the following:
The premises fire risk assessment must record any significant changes in working processes.
Consider the possible impact of increased stock and storage requirements.
Parts of the premises may be locked and taken out of use during the current crisis. The fire risk assessment should take account of increases in the level of risk caused by these changes or measure to mitigate infection control.
Fire safety training of staff should continue as required and include any temporary staff or those that may have been drafted in from another branch to assist with any increased demand.
Any reductions in staff due to sickness must be considered e.g. the ability of reduced staff numbers to operate processes safely or to meet the needs of the existing fire evacuation procedures.
Those that employ or that care for those classed as vulnerable people must consider the effects of the virus on the ability of the vulnerable to escape a premises in the event of a fire.
Employers should continue to produce and review Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans (PEEPs), this is especially relevant in the care industry where residents may rely on staff to perform evacuations.
Alterations to Buildings
Actions such as wedging open doors to reduce the need to touch door handles or sealing or locking doors to prevent air flow will have an impact on fire precautions and could compromise the building's fire safety strategy. It is vital that such measures are considered in the premises FRA and the building's fire strategy is amended accordingly in order to maintain a safe environment.
Other buildings may be repurposed such as a previously low risk warehouse now undertaking essential work to manufacture medical items or packing food parcels. Changes to the building may have occurred without the benefit of the appropriate consultation. RPs must ensure that a thorough FRA has been completed to identify risk and implement any mitigation measures that may be required.
Any FRAs should be completed or reviewed by a competent person, such as a suitably trained fire risk assessor.
Approach and Further Guidance
Those premises that are continuing to operate during the current crisis are still subject to the conditions of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and the provisions have not been removed or reduced during this time.