We recently advised companies on the need to look again at their fire risk assessment as lockdown regulations begin to ease.
Those assessments may be based on having a full complement of staff, many of whom might now be working in shift patterns or from home.
That in turn may impact on fire-trained staff being on-site at all times.
Also, with many companies changing office layouts, are your premises still fire safe?
For example, staff may now be working in canteens or other areas – and electrical equipment may not be compatible.
Making sure you have an up-to-date fire risk assessment is good business sense. It’s also a regulatory requirement.
It’s a plan that not only identifies fire risks and mitigates against them, but provides a clear plan to evacuate if that becomes necessary.
In the new normal in your office, is your evacuation plan up-to-date? More importantly, do staff know what it is?
If things have changed, do those with specific fire safety responsibilities know what those changes are?
For example, in an office that now might have fewer people, can everyone with a disability or mobility problem safely evacuate?
Depending on the location and nature of the fire, using a lift may (and we stress only may) be an option. If so, what are the procedures for using it?
Every business that’s reopened will have, or should have, clear one-way systems in place. But how do they impact on evacuation procedures?
It may also be that, during lockdown, equipment, stock or rubbish could have piled up along escape routes. Make sure they are clear.
And, if staff do have to evacuate, what procedures are in place at assembly points to maintain social distancing? The two-metre rule may have been replaced by one metre, but don’t forget that the rule is ‘one metre plus.’
That means making sure that everyone can socially distance by at least one metre, and preferably more. Don’t forget also that some employees will feel more nervous than others about being close to others. Don’t add to their anxiety by lack of forethought.
And, when the all-clear is given, what hand sanitising facilities do you have? Does your one-way system work from the assembly point back to the office?
In a larger office, how do you ensure an orderly return to work? By department? By floor?
Some of the above points may only seem minor, with some now only advisory. But it’s good business practice to follow both regulation and guidance.
It’s not only what being a good employer is all about, it’s about reassuring each and every employee that you’re doing everything possible to keep them safe – from fire and infection.
Ultimately, it’s about giving everyone the peace of mind that your company cares about them. As we emerge from lockdown, that reassurance could be priceless.