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Fire safety “must be addressed as soon as possible” urges BAFE CEO

16 July 2020

WITH THE Coronavirus lockdown measures imposed by the Government now slowly beginning to ease, BAFE strongly advises that fire safety measures are not overlooked or deferred further at this time.

BAFE CEO Stephen Adams has been discussing this issue in great detail through mediums including the Fire Safety Matters Podcast (Episode 3). According to Adams, fire safety legislation has not changed to accommodate the Coronavirus pandemic and is still very much being enforced in the interest of life safety.

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 so if those responsible for fire safety have not been working in a given building or are on furlough.

Unlike security systems, which are deactivated and activated on a regular basis, fire systems are always set to react in the event of fire. This means that end users may not pick up on faults at an early stage that could jeopardise the effectiveness of the system and the safety of building occupants. Therefore, regular scheduled maintenance performed by competent providers is crucial (and, indeed, 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 fire risk assessments (and to action any issues highlighted) in order to comply with legislation.

Stephen Adams informed Fire Safety Matters: “We are fully aware that the fire safety industry is somewhat invisible to the greater public, and just expects 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 its clients educate them as to the facts. Legislation is still in place; standards continue to recommend scheduled maintenance and third party certificated providers can competently assist in the interests of keeping people safe from fire.”

Previous guidance issued back in March by Chris Auger, head of schemes at 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 (ie the 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, document this communication. This will provide evidence that you have acted responsibly with your clients. If you are allowed access, 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 that contact with clients is important at present. The message from BAFE is clear: “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, while at the same time being understanding of clients’ decisions at present.”