10 tips to help you assess your building’s overall safety and prevent the spread of infection with actionable tools.
(We’ve called them ‘tips’ but really they’re instructions – if you want to restart business and protect your people, you really ought to do these!)
First things first, take a deep breath. You’ve come a long way to reach this point and the fact you’re reading this means you’re now in a position to reopen your doors and resume business, which is great news!
The best thing you can do is prepare and plan. This goes for Coronavirus prevention and risk management, but also your building’s overall health and safety.
The last thing you want is to have implemented new protocols to protect your staff and customers against Coronavirus, only to have forgotten essential areas which, Coronavirus or not, aren’t going anywhere.
As we’ve been saying, “fires don’t get furloughed!”
But that goes for all things, safety-wise that is – these threats don’t go away so it’s important to do an MRI on all of your essential fire safety, security, and health and safety facilities/systems.
Some businesses have a dedicated compliance, risk, site or health and safety manager assigned to look after essential facilities and services. If you’re this person or are a key responsible individual, then we know you’re going to be extremely busy right now organising the best way to manage operations, so we’ve made you a list of everything you need to focus on in order to safely reopen.
Don’t forget to download the quick-fire checklist you’ll see the link for on the top right of this post to fill out and keep for reference of your actions and due diligence.
1. Fire alarm service – is yours overdue?
If you’re about to welcome people back to your premises, you have a responsibility to keep them safe, so ensuring your fire alarm has been serviced is a top priority.
Fire alarm maintenance is due every six months – click here to find out what your engineer will do during this visit. This is a legal requirement to ensure your system is healthy and fault-free so that all parts of your building have the fire detection it needs to protect your people.
If you can’t remember when it last was, check now and book it as soon as possible if it’s overdue, so you’re compliant and ready to let your staff and customers walk safely through your doors.
2. Make sure weekly testing is carried out…
(This is testing not by a specialist, i.e. us, but you/the responsible person to help identify faults in between maintenance services.) If your building has been empty or has experienced limited operations, weekly/periodical testing should still have been carried out since the start of lockdown. That’s your fire alarm, but also any other systems which you’ve got in place, such as sprinklers or fire extinguishers.
All of these tests must be recorded in your log book, which is a legal document as it’s evidence you’ve undertaken the care and due diligence of meeting health and safety requirements. Click here to download a preview of our log book, which explains about fire alarm testing.
Find out what tests have been done and make sure they resume as normal. You’ll also want to check who is responsible for this and ensure at least two other individuals are trained in the testing of systems in case the responsible person is on leave, taken ill or quarantined.
And if you need any help with learning how to carry out the appropriate tests, get in touch and we’ll talk you through it or send over a video demonstration.
3. Got remedial works still pending?
If your fire and security systems have outstanding remedial works, be it a battery replacement or a device replacement, don’t delay! Talk to your provider and ask them to help you prioritise the most important and safety-reliant works so these don’t get missed and your business can safely say “up and at ‘em!”
4. Revise your Fire Risk Assessment
Chances are you’ll have formulated a new company policy document (we have – click here to check out our Contingency Plan) but there are mandatory assessments which must be reviewed regularly to reflect your building in its current state.
A Fire Risk Assessment is one of them. And it’s stated in the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 that they must be carried out when significant changes have been made to a premises, either in structure or operations/logistic management. Ergo, you’ll want to carry out a Fire Risk Assessment to ensure any new protocols you have in place are not a hindrance to fire safety.
You can carry out Fire Risk Assessments yourself using Government guidelines or you can get a professional to do it for you. Click here to learn more about Fire Risk Assessments.
5. Rethink Your Evacuation Plan
Ensure you’ve taken into account vulnerable persons, escape route feasibility of social distancing during drills and the evacuation point where people will group following the raised alarm. Once you’ve nailed this down, make sure everyone within your premises is clear on these new guidelines.
6. Have You Assigned Back-Up Fire Marshals?
As mentioned above with regards to your fire alarm and safety system testing, you’ll not only want to have a back-up individual who knows how to operate key facilities and systems (such as your caretaker or site manager) but you’ll also want to make sure you’ve got more fire marshals assigned as back-ups, should anyone be taken ill or quarantined.
The general rule of thumb is for 50-100 people you should have two fire marshals, and for every additional 100, an additional fire marshal. However, we would recommend at least one other fire marshal per 50-100 people to cover all bases during these unprecedented times.
7. Who are your emergency key holders?
It’s the same concept as above, if your alarm system (be it your fire or intruder alarm) is linked up with alarm monitoring to call the emergency service and/or key holders in the event of an alarm activation, then you’ll want to evaluate who your key holders are and make sure you add other individuals to account for any absences should someone not be allowed to leave home.
Of course, if the person called cannot attend the building to check for any untoward activity, they can call another person to ask them this to head down there; but you’ve got to ask yourself whether, in the event of an emergency, a delay like this would be worth it if it could have been prevented by a quick, administrational check. Plus, what if they don’t answer? How likely is someone (who’s not a regular key holder) to answer the phone in the middle of the night? It takes us two minutes to add or remove a person from a monitoring key holder list, so if you’ve got monitoring, make sure you don’t miss this.
Now, the below points are to help you in the fight against further spreading Coronavirus…
8. Could you be more contactless?
Think about how people enter and move around your building. How much touching is involved to get through doors? Are there communal keypads which involves everyone using their fingertips to enter a code or press a button?
There’s no doubt about it that Coronavirus is here to stay, so whilst many believe that measures are entirely short-term, they’re in fact going to be needed for some time. Everything is moving towards contactless regardless of Coronavirus, not just for hygiene, but for ease, too. So, evaluate how contactless your premises is and decide if improving your access control would be worth it both in risk management for Coronavirus prevention (and generic spreading of infection) and the ease it might create in free-flowing movement.
Something as simple as switching input codes on a keypad for your intruder alarm to key cards or tags could make a world of difference.
9. Identifying symptomatic people
Something like thermal cameras, which is becoming increasingly popular as business reopen, can help to identify those with a high temperature – a key symptom of COVID-19 – as they enter a building, helping you stop the spread into your building and reassign individuals for further testing before returning to the building.
It’s super simple and fast to get up-and-running, which is great for people needing a speedy solution. Plus, there are even cameras which can be used for density control or AI to identify if someone is wearing a face mask – particularly useful if you’re controlling the number of people in your premises and enforcing a rule with face mask use.
The first step is to identify what your protocols will be and how you’ll manage people going forward in this to avoid a second peak. If there’s a tool that can help you do this then it’s better to get started with it as soon as you can to demonstrate your due diligence, rather than turning to hindsight down the line.
10. Get Specialist Help & Advice
Take advantage of a free consultation we’re offering to help you evaluate any of the above, or if we already look after you, get in touch to tell us what we could be doing more of to support you at this time.
Right now, we’re playing a key part in helping many businesses like yours reopen their doors safely. We know you’ve got this but if we can save you time, money, health risks and administrational headaches at this time by consulting us on any of the above-mentioned tick-boxes, then please let us know.
We’ve been offering free telephone support throughout the pandemic, so call today for any help you need with fire and security on 01277 724 653.
Here’s to taking on the new normal, protecting our people and kicking Coronavirus to the curb!
And if you found this article useful, pay it forward with the knowledge you’ve gained to help you reopen your business by sharing on social media using the buttons below.
Post by Verity Stone
Hi, I’m Verity! WFP’s Head of Communications. As well as ensuring our customers are happy with their service, I’m a huge fan of spreading the word about fire safety and security to help keep businesses safe and legal.More posts by Verity Stone