Unoccupied Buildings During Covid-19

Posted 11/10/2020 10:36:50 AM

Anglia Fire Protection UK

I think it’s fair to say it’s been said a lot over the past 11 months and never has it been meant more, but right now it’s about staying safe. But have you considered all aspects of what this means?

Whilst many companies are navigating the confusion Covid is causing, between juggling how a business can continue and keeping Covid safe, fire safety is probably not hitting the agenda, especially if your business premises aren’t currently being used.

Fire safety is classed as essential work and with good reason. Read on to find out about increased fire risks and what you can be doing to reduce them.

With the entire country in lockdown for the third time, it is particularly concerning for any business owner. You’ve already been there twice, for which we all deserve a medal, but to do it again? It’s scary to even think about. Initially businesses all over the country shut their doors. Many have been able to reopen, others are working from home whilst some still aren’t able to give the all clear. Now many businesses have closed their doors for a third time. This means buildings are being left unoccupied and therefore exposed to greater risks. Seems odd? 

Buildings left idle are checked for risks far less, if at all. No one is there to smell a gas leak, or to see the smoke being generated from an electrical fault. There’s also no one there at risk should an arsonist decide to strike. According to statistics released by The National Fire Chiefs Council, arson accounted for 50.5% of all fires attended in 2017/18 by Fire and Rescue Services in the whole of the UK. And although crime rates appear to have dropped during the pandemic, arson attacks appear to have prevailed. It sounds obvious, but the damage caused by fire can be devasting and therefore incredibly costly. Given the fact that the majority of fires can be avoided by implementing the appropriate safety measures and maintaining fire safety systems regularly, it is vital that businesses do what they can now to keep the risks as low as possible, ultimately costing far less too.

One way in which you can do this is to stick to your regular servicing and maintenance schedule. The British Standards recommend that fire alarms, emergency lighting and fire suppression systems should be serviced by a qualified technician a minimum of twice per annum. Sounds excessive? This is to ensure there are no faults on the system and that everything is working as it should be, i.e. standby batteries are sufficiently charged, essential if you ever have a power cut. Fire extinguishers should also be professionally serviced once per annum and within one year of their previous service. Ideally, regular checks should be carried out on all fire safety measures and these can be done by anyone in the building with sufficient knowledge and training. Fire extinguishers require a visual check once a week to ensure they are still in the correct place and the pressure is as it should be. Fire alarm systems should be tested on a weekly basis to ensure sounders and devices activate as they should. Emergency lighting needs to be tested monthly.

Other actions that need consideration whilst premises are unoccupied include:

  • The storage of any combustible and flammable materials
  • Possible damage to wiring caused by vermin
  • Post collection; a build up of post can be a significant fire risk
  • Have bins been emptied and electrical items switched off safely?

Finally, it is a legal requirement to carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment of your idle building. This will help in identifying and understanding the potential risks within the premises and therefore guide you in what actions must be taken. 
It seems a mine field but we’re here to help. If you have any questions, require any guidance or would like us to provide any services during this time, then please don’t hesitate to give us a call.

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