As we continue to struggle with Covid-19, it is safe to say that things have changed considerably in the workplace. Most of the country is in Tier 2 and Tier 3: indeed, the only places that are not are the Isle of Wight (population 141,538, Cornwall (population 565,968), and the Scilly Isles (population 2,224). The population of England is 55.98 million, so the vast majority of us are still in virtual lockdown.
However, we can at least go to the shops, and offices are beginning to open again, but things have changed a lot in the way that we work. We have barriers and screens where we didn’t have them before, and in many offices, desks and chairs have been moved, people have been put into different rooms, workplace time schedules have been rearranged, and all sorts of things are very different from the way that they were a few months ago.
For this reason, now is a very good time to carry out an office fire safety assessment because when you start moving things about and changing them around and putting up barriers, it can make a very big difference to fire escape routes. People may be in a different office and not be aware of the way things have physically changed, as it is not the first thing that we think of after months working at home.
If you are the responsible person in your business, one of the first things to check is that your new safety precautions such as plastic screens, hand sanitiser stations, and so on, are not blocking exit routes.
You also need to check your fire alarms systems. After a few weeks of not being in use, they certainly need to be tested. It could also mean that you have missed out on a periodic service, so you need to call your fire alarm service company and arrange for them to come over as soon as possible.
Fire escape routes need to be checked and ensure that all fire doors are working as they should. The positioning of fire-fighting equipment – extinguishers and so on – may need to be altered in order to deal with the fact that staff are not where they used to be. It could also be that it would take extra time to evacuate large numbers of staff who are being socially distanced and are not sure which way to go.
Don’t forget that when a fire starts people may quite naturally panic and not remember that they are in a different position, so you need to make an assessment of where everything and everyone is, and if things need to be changed vis-à-vis escape routes that all staff are aware of any new rules. Indeed, it would be a good time to undertake a fire drill in order to make sure that new routes are understood. You may also have taken on some new employees, so they need to be brought up to speed as well.
Furthermore, the law requires you to re-assess your fire safety on a regular basis as well. At UK-Fire Risk Assessments, we are aware that you may have missed out on one of our annual visits and we will be contacting all of our clients who have either missed out on an update or are due for one very shortly so that you remain compliant with the law. Penalties for non-compliance can be severe and can even include prison sentences of up to two years, so Covid-19 or not, fire safety is not something to be brushed aside.
If you are not one of our clients but you need a fire safety assessment in your business, we can conduct one for you. Our rates are based on the size of your premises and start at only £195.00 + VAT. If you employ five or more people, the law requires you not only to conduct a fire safety assessment but also to keep a written record of your findings and any action taken as a result. We will carry out your fire risk assessment and make any recommendations that we find are necessary, and we also provide all clients with a written report.