There is a bombardment of information coming out regarding the coronavirus pandemic and the changes to the ‘new normal’ we are becoming accustomed to. BAFE has been keeping abreast of this information and hope you have found news provided on the BAFE website useful.
With coronavirus lockdown measures in place slowly beginning to ease BAFE strongly advises that fire safety measures are not overlooked or deferred further. Stephen Adams, Chief Executive – BAFE, has been discussing this within the industry using multiple outputs such as the FSM Podcast (episode 3) and the Fire Safety Event Online (15/05/2020). During the event online, Mr. Adams clearly stated the fact that fire safety legislation has not changed to accommodate the coronavirus pandemic, it is still very much being enforced in the interest of life safety.
Inside Housing recently reported that “Housing minister says planned maintenance and void work should resume in letter to social housing tenants” (19/05/2020). The article discussed the current status of gas safety checks, writing “the government reiterated its view that landlords should ‘make every effort’ to abide by statutory obligations and conduct annual gas safety inspections.” BAFE must stress fire safety obligations should also continue to be followed with as much significance, performed as safely as possible.
Fire does not discriminate, and as BAFE has discussed many times before, fire systems and provisions are often taken for granted and their maintenance can be overlooked, especially if those responsible for fire safety have not been working in the building or are on furlough. Unlike security systems, which you deactivate and activate on a regular basis, fire systems are always set to active ready to react in the event of fire. This means you may not pick up on faults early that could jeopardise the effectiveness of the system and the safety of your occupants. Therefore, regular scheduled maintenance performed by competent providers is crucial (and noted as best practice in the appropriate standards). Following this, with documented evidence, will demonstrate due diligence.
All fire safety systems and provisions should continue to be well maintained ready for when people begin to reoccupy buildings. This is prevalent with the current situation, as measures implemented to deal with covid-19 may instigate an obligation to update your fire risk assessment (and to action any issues highlighted) to comply with legislation.
Stephen Adams comments “we are fully aware that the fire safety industry is somewhat invisible to the greater public, and just expect their premises managers to be ‘doing the right thing’, even throughout the coronavirus pandemic. Competent fire safety is simply expected, and it comes down to the industry to contact their clients to educate them of the facts. Legislation is still in place; standards continue to recommend scheduled maintenance and Third Party Certificated providers can competently assist them in the interest of keeping people safe from fire.”
Previous guidance issued (17/03/2020) by Chris Auger, Head of Schemes – BAFE, specified: “If a client is not permitting access on-site due to coronavirus precautions, please make sure you explain that this is their decision to not allow you to complete this work. It is the role of the premises management (i.e. Responsible Person/Duty Holder) to ensure they fulfil their fire safety obligations.
Advise them of any risk and if they still do not grant you access on-site, document this communication. This will provide evidence you have acted responsibly with your clients.
If you are allowed access on-site, please stay safe and follow appropriate coronavirus guidance to ensure you are not unnecessarily increasing risk to anyone in the premises or yourselves.”
BAFE continues to encourage this action, stressing contact with clients is important at present. As we all begin to adapt to new ways of working and ongoing developments regarding the pandemic please continue to uphold best practice in the fire safety industry, whilst being understanding of client’s decisions at present.
When sourcing help, make sure you specify competent fire safety providers and verify their Third Party Certification is appropriate and valid for the work required.