COVID-19 and Fire Risk Assessments for SMEs
As a Small or Medium Enterprise, you should already be aware of the Fire Safety Order. This is the main law governing fire protection, and is officially known as the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. This statutory instrument regulates fire safety protection in practically all buildings. It requires you to carry out a fire risk assessment on your premises to ensure that they meet the required standard. Your personnel must also be properly trained in fire safety awareness and evacuation procedures.
This assessment must now take into account the additional legal requirements regarding COVID-19.
Fire risk assessments with COVID-19
Were your premises closed during the pandemic? If so, you'll have to review your fire risk assessment to ensure it still meets all requirements, and includes any additional measures relating to COVID-19. This means considering what (if any) changes you've made to your working practices, and whether they affect your assessment.
- You might be storing greater amounts of stock, for example, so you might need to change your stock control procedures to ensure continuing fire safety.
- Social distancing requirements may mean that you have lone workers who could be at greater risk, or fewer people in general on the premises at any given time. If so, you must be sure there are enough staff available with the appropriate training to deal with a fire hazard, including organising and carrying out an evacuation.
- If necessary, you might have to train more staff, and perhaps appoint a fire marshal or warden, particularly if people are working split shifts or varying hours.
- You may have to plan a new map of possible escape routes which incorporates social distancing and access to existing emergency fire exits. These must be able to accommodate anyone with a disability, or anyone requiring additional assistance, in an emergency.
- If fire alarm systems and protocols haven't been tested during lockdown, you'll need to do a full test before the premises are re-occupied. You should review your maintenance and testing regimes to determine whether any changes are required.
- You must also determine whether COVID-19 measures have impacted or changed the access and facilities granted to firefighters, and whether any changes are needed.
- With any return to work during or after lockdown, social distancing requirements must be scrupulously observed. That includes putting a plan in place for safe rendezvous points in the event of an evacuation.
- Your local fire authority may conduct inspections, so you should keep written records of all measures you take to comply with the Order and review them regularly. Be aware that if your premises are found to be non-compliant, the fire authority has the power to impose a fine, or even close down your premises if lives are in danger.
WSS is a specialist safety company, and we conduct fire risk assessments for SMEs on a regular basis. If you'd like some professional help with your reopening, we'll be happy to assist you with the necessary arrangements.