The coronavirus has changed the way the entire world functions. From lockdowns where we all had to stay at home, to phased returns to work with employees going to work on a rota, and protective screens and one-way systems in shops, restaurants and other hospitality settings, we have all had to get used to a new normal. If you are the person responsible for health and safety and fire safety in a building, you might be wondering about how the changes you have had to make to deal with the coronavirus have impacted on your fire safety protocols. Here, we look at how fire safety remains a priority for all and what you should be doing in terms of fire escapes, fire safety equipment, fire doors and all other aspects of fire safety once you have made coronavirus changes to a building.
With the changes that business owners and managers of commercial buildings have had to implement relatively quickly in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic and the ensuing social distancing restrictions, there has been a push for businesses to prioritise fire safety in this time of Covid.
A fire risk assessment should become a regular occurrence in normal times anyway, but if you have had to make significant changes to how your building functions due to Covid-19, it would be wise to bring forward any planned fire risk assessment you have in order to implement fire safety changes that are required due to the Covid changes made. Make an extensive list of all changes that have been made to the way in which the building functions on a daily basis. A fire risk assessment should reduce the risk of fire, ensure that the fire alarm systems are in full working order, that any interim safety measures are fully understood and implemented by those in the building, identifies any new and emerging fire risks and looks after vulnerable people in the building.
If significant changes have been made to the layout of the building, or if one-way systems have been introduced, a new fire evacuation plan must be devised and implemented carefully. All staff, residents and visitors must be made aware of this plan, with training and clear signage. The same could be said of fire safety equipment and fire doors etc. where any changes must be identified and included in the fire safety evaluation and tweaks to fire safety plans moving forward.
Implementing effective and safe changes to a building that you are responsible for, in the face of Covid-19 and social distancing restrictions, is an important aspect of managing any building, whether commercial or residential. However, principle matters of safety for your building, such as installing efficient fire doors and maintaining high standards of fire safety training and knowledge, signage and escape routes for all who enter the building, should never be overlooked. It could be that your fire safety procedures require a revamp after the Covid-19 changes that you have made. Make sure that your building is up to scratch in all aspects of safety through a thorough fire safety evaluation as soon as possible.