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Fire and Rescue Services stress pandemic is “no excuse for ignoring fire safety”

15 June 2020

GIVEN RECENT developments in the approach to businesses emerging from lockdown, Fire and Rescue Services nationwide have been publishing really useful advice and guidance for commercial/non-domestic buildings. BAFE has picked up on this and collated some key points for discussion.

A recent news item published by the West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service announced a new fire safety leaflet noting important fire safety measures that should continue to be followed in order to adhere to legislation.

For its part, BAFE has observed that many of the essential shops to have remained open, as well as other buildings such as schools and care homes, have implemented new safety measures in response to the Coronavirus pandemic. The advice now being issued by Fire and Rescue Services is to stress that 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 solutions and emergency lighting, should be also be tested and maintained to ensure the early detection of fire and raising of the alarm as well as engender a safe evacuation.

The Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service (MFRS) reinforced advice by also issuing its own warning. Bill Shepherd of the MFRS Protection Department said: As Government guidance changes and the lockdown restrictions are eased, more and more people will be returning to work, but with an understanding that businesses are still not operating at what they would deem to be ‘normal’ capacity. Coronavirus is not an excuse for disregarding [fire safety] responsibilities. Businesses must ensure that they have an adequate amount of competent people in place to help in terms of the implementation of both preventative and protective fire safety measures.”

Competent fire safety providers

BAFE continues to promote its Don’t Just Specify, Verify! campaign which highlights the importance of using evidentially competent providers to help meet fire safety requirements. UKAS-accredited third party certification offers independent evidence that a provider can deliver specific services.

The verification stage is sometimes overlooked, but remains vital. Checking that a chosen solutions provider holds the appropriate third party certification for the specific service required enables end users to be confident that they 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: https://www.bafe.org.uk/Dont-Just-Specify-Verify-Third-Party-Certification

Fire Safety Order

During the recent business safety webinar hosted by the Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service, the following comment was made: “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 fire risk assessments with a view towards assessing if any additional measures may need to be put in place to ensure that fire safety is met.”

Back in February, there was a substantial fire at The Law Society in central London. Tom Booton, head of corporate real estate, explained: “The London Fire Brigade has a priority to preserve life, then the building and then its contents. If you have plans in place, and know your building, you’ll save time and lives. You’ll probably save more of your building and its contents as well. Never think that it will happen to you.”

The last thing BAFE would wish to see is any business falling victim to fire, and especially so under the current circumstances. Tom Booton’s advice is clear: “Never think it will not 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 the sake of people’s well-being.