With recent developments in the approach out of lockdown, Fire and Rescue Services nationwide have been publishing useful advice and guidance for commercial/non-domestic buildings. A recent news item published by West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service (WYFRS) for example, announced a new fire safety leaflet “Returning to Work after Covid-19 Lockdowns” noting important fire safety measures that should continue to be followed to adhere to legislation.
BAFE have observed that many essential shops that remain open, and other buildings such as schools and care homes, have implemented new safety measures in reaction to the coronavirus pandemic. The advice now being released by Fire and Rescue Services is to stress fire safety legislation is still very much in force and should be properly reviewed considering new virus safety arrangements being employed. An example of this would be the one-way systems shops have introduced, blocking access to particular directions. This affects multiple fire safety measures, including means of escape and access to fire safety provisions such as manual call points and fire extinguishers. This should be appropriately reflected in an updated fire risk assessment. Life safety systems, such as fire detection and emergency lighting, should be also be tested and maintained to ensure early detection of fire to raise the alarm and aid a safe evacuation.
Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service (MFRS) reinforced advice by also issuing their own warning. Station Manager Bill Shepherd, MFRS Protection Department said: “As government guidance changes and lockdown restrictions are eased, more and more people will be returning to work but we understand that businesses are still not operating at what they would deem to be ‘normal’.
“Coronavirus is not an excuse for disregarding your [fire safety] responsibilities and businesses must ensure that they have an adequate amount of competent people to help in the implementation of both preventative and protective fire safety measures.”
BAFE, the independent register of quality fire safety service providers, continues to promote their campaign “Don’t Just Specify, Verify!” which highlights the importance of using evidentially competent providers to help meet your fire safety requirements. UKAS Accredited Third Party Certification offers independent evidence a provider can deliver specific services. The verification stage is sometimes overlooked but remains vital. Checking your chosen provider holds the appropriate Third Party Certification for the specific service you require enables you to be confident you have acted with full due diligence. Multiple registers of Third Party Certificated providers exist for fire safety services, including the BAFE Fire Safety Register which is free to access for the public.
During the Business Safety Web Chat, hosted by Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service (27/05/2020), they commented: “fire safety legislation is still being enforced [and] we have measures in place to enforce this… The responsible person still has responsibilities under the fire safety order and any changes need to be included within your fire risk assessment looking to see if any additional measures may need to be put into place to ensure fire safety is met.”
In February this year (01/02/2020), The Law Society in London suffered a substantial fire. Head of Corporate Real Estate, Tom Booton said: “The Brigade has a priority to preserve life, then the building, then contents. If [you have] plans, and know your building, you’ll save lives, time and you’ll probably save more of your building and its contents. Never think it won’t happen to you.”
The last thing BAFE would like to see is any business fall victim to fire, especially under the current circumstances. Mr Booton’s advice is clear: “never think it won’t happen to you”. Don’t be complacent or disregard your fire safety as the focus remains on coronavirus safety measures. All factors of safety must be acknowledged for people’s wellbeing.