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Covid-19: Re-opening your premises

As the country moves into the planned recovery phase and social distancing measures continue, businesses will be making changes to ensure a safe environment for staff and customers.

Business opening signOne of the challenges is around reducing the risk of transmission of coronavirus (Covid-19) by limiting the number of people on the premises. This may include:

  • introducing shift patterns for staff;
  • creating one-way systems for staff or shoppers; and
  • preventing access to parts of the premises which remain unoccupied

 

Any changes to your premises to limit the spread of Covid-19 must not impact on fire safety.

 

It is important that persons identified as having a responsibility for fire safety under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 make sure any measures implemented to limit the spread of Covid-19 do not inadvertently impact fire safety.

Where there are new or temporary measures, the premises' fire safety arrangements must remain suitable and sufficient to protect people in the event of fire.

The fire service cannot do this for you but, to help businesses and business owners meet their statutory duties under fire safety law, we have produced the following advice - alternatively, download our leaflet Covid-19: Fire safety for businesses (PDF).

Key things for businesses to consider before re-opening

Update your fire risk assessment


Fire safety is a dynamic process to be dealt with on a day-to-day basis. It is the duty of the Responsible Person* to ensure risk from fire is identified and suitable measures are implemented. You should:

  • Update the premises' fire risk assessment to reflect any changes to the way your business is operating. To help you, we have identified below the main areas which may be affected and raised questions for you to consider as part of your review.
  • Take the necessary steps to reduce the risks identified.
  • Where you share a building with other occupiers, carry out the review in conjunction with other premises owners and the premises management company, to fully assess the risk and any impact you may have on each other.


We recognise that every premises will be different so you will need to consider your own needs and circumstances when carrying out the review.


If you feel you do not have the necessary experience or skills to identify the general fire precautions required to keep
people safe, you should appoint one or more competent persons** to assist you.


Read further information on how to find a competent risk assessor.

* The Responsible Person as defined in Article 3 of The Fire Safety Order is a hierarchy where the Responsible Person is:
1. The employer;
2. Where there is no employer, the person who has control of the premises; or
3. The owner.

** A competent person is someone with enough training and experience or knowledge and other qualities to enable them properly to assist in undertaking the preventive and protective measures.

Review your evacuation procedures

  • Are there enough staff members to assist with evacuation as necessary?
    For example, roll calls, fire warden sweeps, moving/assisting people with restricted mobility.
  • Are all of your fire exits and evacuation routes still available and identified by signage?
    You should undertake a physical inspection of all your escape routes and fire exits, to ensure they are still available and doors have not seized up whilst out of use. It is particularly important to consider any routes shared with other businesses, as well as the impact of any temporary structures.

Provide staff training

  • Are all your staff familiar with the evacuation procedures, emergency routes and exits, and any role they are required to carry out during an evacuation?
    You should include new or temporary staff, and those who have been moved from another site.
  • Do your staff understand, for example, the risks associated with overloading plug sockets, the procedures for reporting fire safety issues, the need to keep escape routes clear and unobstructed etc.?
  • Have you stressed to your staff the importance of NOT wedging open fire doors and the role they play in protecting people in the event of a fire?

Consider introducing regular cleaning of door handles/push plates. Alternatively, fire doors may be fitted with approved automatic hold-open devices which release the door on activation of an automatic fire alarm system.

Check your fire safety arrangements

  • Have you considered the impact Covid-19 has on your fire safety arrangements?
    This may include, for example, third party contractors, training providers, fire alarm engineers and other external companies.
  • Do staff know how to report fire safety concerns and faults in fire safety equipment?
    Staff should be encouraged to remain vigilant to new or emerging risks to keep your premises safe from fire.
  • Have you reviewed your business continuity arrangements, for example, the availability of alternative premises in an emergency?

Review your measures for detecting a fire and raising the alarm

  • Where you have fewer people working in your premises, or you have areas which remain unoccupied, are the existing arrangements for detecting fire and raising the alarm still adequate? For example, where you previously relied on fire detection by people, you may now need a system of interlinked automatic fire detection. If you are in doubt, you should seek advice from a 'competent person'.
  • Where you share a building and the fire alarm system is under the control of another occupier, have you checked it is still working and regularly maintained?

Check your fire safety maintenance arrangements

  • Is your fire alarm system, emergency lighting, sprinklers etc. in working order?
  • When were they lasted tested and maintained?
  • Do you have enough competent people to undertake the regular testing of your fire safety systems?
  • If the scheduled maintenance has been deferred, have/did you discuss the fire safety risks with your service engineer?
  • Have you checked the arrangements for emergency callouts and repairs with your service engineers?

Control your fire risks

  • Have you considered the impact created by the storage of extra stock and/or waste?
    You must keep it clear of ignition sources, smoke detectors, sprinkler heads etc. and ensure it does not block escape routes.
  • Are your arrangements to protect your premises from arson still adequate?
    Ensure the premises remain secure and any external combustible storage is removed or stored securely.
  • Where you have previously turned off your electrical supply and/or appliances, have you arranged for them to be checked by a competent person?

Monitor and review your fire safety measures

  • Interim fire safety measures introduced in response to the current Covid-19 situation will need to be kept under review and updated, as necessary, to reflect changes to the way your business and premises operate.
  • Once business as usual commences, the fire safety measures should again be reviewed and normal procedures implemented or revised, as necessary, to ensure they are suitable and sufficient to keep people safe.

Overall, are sufficient precautions in place to safeguard the safety of relevant persons in case of fire?

Download our leaflet Covid-19: Fire Safety for Businesses(PDF)

Further information

Covid-19 and business fire safety FAQs

Read about how to find a competent risk assessor

Find out more about business fire safety

If you would like to speak to a fire safety officer regarding your premises, please contact our helpline on 01392 872567 during normal office hours or email firesafetyhelpdesk@dsfire.gov.uk

Updated 26 June 2020

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