Business Safety Advice for lockdown easing
As the lockdown from COVID-19 continues to ease more businesses are beginning to open, albeit a significant number at a reduced capacity.
The Business Safety department within Gloucestershire Fire & Rescue would like this opportunity to remind the responsible persons of businesses in safety measures that can be adopted to mitigate the likelihood of fire and protect those using the premises from fire as much as is reasonably practicable. The list below is not exhaustive, but are areas of the business that should be a focus for creating a safer environment.
- Stockpiling - should be avoided unless it can be stored in a safe place that is unlikely to assist in fire development. All stock should be locked away from unauthorised people and must never be located in places that form part of the escape routes. This includes corridors, stairway enclosures, spaces under stairs and any cupboards that are located onto an escape route (unless the cupboard is locked and fire rated to a minimum of 30 minutes).
- Fire doors - should be closed at all times unless held open by an appropriate hold open device that will active on the sound of a fire alarm. The propping open of a fire door using wedges or other items to reduce persons making contact with door handles during COVID-19 is not permitted. The use hand sanitisers should be considered in the mitigation of the virus spread.
- Risk of Arson - will be increased when a premises is left unoccupied for extensive periods. Steps to reduce the likelihood of arson should include reducing or preferably removing any external sources of fuel or ignition. This includes products of waste or empty pallets. Gates and fences should be securely locked with consideration in the use of CCTV and security lighting.
- Means of escape - the means of escape for persons in an emergency must be maintained at all times. Particular attention must be made to the so called ‘way leave agreements’ where an adjacent premises is used for the escape of your staff in the event of an emergency. This is particularly important if the premises used as a means of escape remains closed when your premises is open. If this is the case, alternative measures will need to be considered.
- Staff numbers - the number of staff may increase due to an increase in demand or a change in the business model. The extra numbers must be considered in the fire risk assessment to ensure that there is adequate means of escape, including fire exits to accommodate the increased personnel. Conversely a reduced number in staff may also create safety issues in the event of a fire. Do you have adequate trained fire marshals and trained staff to assist in the evacuation of all persons in the event of an emergency? If not then consideration must be given to the provision of safety training to existing staff.
- Fire Risk Assessment (FRA) - this is a fundamental process in achieving a safe premises during a fire. Under the Fire Safety Order 2005 it is a legal requirement for all premises with the exception of a single private dwelling to have a current and up to date FRA. If there are more than 5 members of staff within the company the FRA must be recorded with significant findings noted. The FRA must take into account all of the areas above as well as any changes to the fire risk of the business. This could be a change in the quantity or type of stock, any change in processes, any change in the opening hours, either extended or reduced. The FRA should be up to date and reflect the changes made to the business immediately and reviewed at least once per annum to account for any oversights during the change of risk.
For more information on business safety, in particular during COVID-19, please visit National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) webpage.