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Covid-19: business fire safety

It's important to continue practising fire safety despite the ongoing coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

All businesses should review their Fire Risk assessment and Emergency Plan in light of the impact of Covid-19 on their staffing levels, operating times, business processes and evacuation arrangements.

Further information on fire risk assessments can be found in the Business Regulations (Fire) section.

UPDATED: 11.05.20

Advice if you’re in the process of reopening your business

Now that your business is starting to operate again there are some key Fire Safety matters for you to consider.This information is designed to provide some helpful assistance.

Fire Risk Assessments

On your return to work it may be necessary to review your Fire Risk Assessment to ensure that it is current and reflects the way your business now operates. Consider changes such as working practices, stock levels, alterations made to the premises and staff numbers. It is essential that assessments are undertaken and reviewed where there are significant changes in ways of working, processes or building layout.This may include the holding open of fire doors with unsuitable devices, this is not permitted.

Means of Escape

Ensure that your escape routes remain available and open correctly - remember, they may have seized up whilst not in use. If you share an escape route remember that those other businesses may not be open.This should be supported with adequate escape signage and lighting to identify the escape routes to be used in event of fire.

Arson

Due to the potential increased stock and the period of closure, the amount of rubbish you generate may increase. Care should be taken when dealing with this rubbish as accumulated rubbish outside of the building provides a potential target for arson which could damage your business.

Training

Where staff numbers have changed, businesses must ensure that they continue to provide appropriate staff training. If you haven’t undertaken staff training for some time, on your return ensure that all staff know what to do in a fire situation. If those people with specific tasks have not returned to work, ensure that other suitably trained staff are available. You must consider the needs of lone workers and their fire safety.

Maintaining Fire Safety Measures

Whilst you have been closed have you maintained your premises fire safety features, i.e. fire alarm, fire extinguisher and emergency lighting? Timely maintenance is vital for the safety of your business and those that use the premises.

Further information can be found regarding business safety advice in this safety guide.

Check out our frequently asked questions around business safety and Covid-19.

If you’ve had to close your business

If your building is closed for an extended period of time, there are some key steps to take in order to reduce the risk of fire:

  • Keep all entrances and exits clear, and rubbish and commercial bins should be emptied and stored securely away from any buildings 
  • If possible, don’t store excessive amounts of stock in a hazardous manner
  • Turn off all electrical devices where possible and remove plugs from sockets
  • Ensure your building is secure and continue with usual measures to prevent arson

If no staff will be using the building regularly, your premises should regularly be checked to ensure that the security of the building has not been compromised. Any issues should be reported to Crimestoppers by calling 0800 555 111. 

If the fire warning and detection system at your premises is linked to an alarm collecting centre they should be advised that the building will be empty. Confirm that the collecting centre has up to date contact details of managers of the premises in case of alarm actuation. 

If your building is connected or adjacent to a domestic dwelling and you have a shared fire alarm, you must arrange for the weekly testing to take place.

If your business is still operating

New and temporary staff should receive robust fire safety training and awareness. Staff should be extra vigilant of potential hazards and risks, particularly where staffing levels have been reduced, or if staff are working alone or in an isolated environment:

  • Ensure that alarms and emergency exits are still accessible and that alarms can be raised as needed 
  • Continue fire safety testing and keep ignition sources separate from combustible materials. Even where stockpiling is necessary due to external factors, these safety measures must be followed. 
  • Do not prop open fire doors, even as a measure to minimise contact between staff

Healthcare premises

Staffing levels in care homes must be maintained to ensure emergency plans can be effectively managed and staff should constantly monitor the situation on their premises.

If staffing levels are affected by Covid-19, care homes should review their risk assessment and emergency plan. If there are not enough staff to support a care home’s evacuation strategy, the care home should consult with their Fire Risk Assessor.

Any staged evacuation arrangements such as progressive horizontal evacuation, (PHE) which are often in place in hospitals and care homes, need to be supported by appropriate levels of staff.

If a fire does occur in your premises you must ensure the fire service is called at the earliest opportunity and inform the operator that an evacuation is in progress.

Find out more about our support for businesses during the coronavirus outbreak.

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