At the time of writing this article all businesses are following the Government directive to adopt social distancing measures in order to protect employees and customers from contracting COVID-19 virus. This has led to many companies to ask their employees to work from home and/or take the difficult decision to close their building for the foreseeable future.
Whilst we do not wish to appear to be jumping on the band wagon or benefiting from these terrible circumstances, we felt it our duty to remind all building owners that all unoccupied buildings must have their fire safety equipment maintained as it is classed as life safety essential equipment. Furthermore, we have received notifications from insurers that insurance cover could also be invalidated if regular maintenance inspections have not been carried out.
Duty of Care – Protecting Commercial Buildings from Fire
Most insurers will be expecting their clients to continue essential maintenance. This is applicable to all commercial buildings, but is of particular relevance to schools, colleges, universities, listed buildings, care homes, HMO’s, offices and hotels.
Your first responsibility under the duty of care regulations is to ensure that your commercial building remains protected at all times by a working fire alarm system that will set off alerts should any fire signals be detected.
In order to comply with the regulations, it means that the maintenance inspections that would be routinely carried out if the building is open must still be carried out by the Responsible Individual(s) or other competent individual.
In order to enable this essential maintenance to take place, The Government has granted fire and security companies like Tecserv UK ‘key worker’ status.
Therefore your fire alarm maintenance company should make it possible for arrangements to be made to access the building, whilst also enable everyone that needs to be involved to adhere to social distancing policies.
These inspections and any faults if found, must be reported in the fire log book. If faults are found, Tecserv UK’s advice is to liaise with your fire alarm maintenance provider and the owners of the building to inform them of the fault and decide the safest course of action.
Empty buildings also create the opportunity for crime, so please also ensure you carry out a full fire and security risk assessment prior to closing your building and on a continuous basis whilst is it closed in order to protect your people and property.
Finally, if you have asked staff to work from home, there is no legal duty of care for you to assess the work environment they have established at home. However, as a responsible employer, you may wish to provide advice about the best desk set up as well as outlining the health and safety risks posed by having additional electrical devices connected at home such as charger and cable safety.
If Tecserv UK can help with any further advice regarding fire protection and the safety and security of your employees and your commercial buildings please get in touch.