With the rules on lockdown changing almost weekly and lots businesses planning to return to their premises and get back to something close to business as usual, the team here at Realm Fire & Security thought it was important to remind our clients, and other businesses, of the fire safety challenges that face everyone returning to a building that has been mostly empty for three or four months.

We thought it would be useful to look at the various considerations different businesses will need to address. As ever, the Realm Fire & Security team is here to support you as you return, ready to help business owners and HSE managers stay on top of their duty of care in regard to fire safety for both staff and visitors to your premises.

Thermal cameras to protect staff and visitors

With social distancing rules starting to relax, the key message is to remember to wash hands regularly and self-isolate if you have any symptoms, as well as remaining a safe distance from other people remain. With all that in mind, many of your staff may be feeling apprehensive about returning to the workplace after remaining in lockdown for such a long time. There are a number of technical solutions available to monitor or check the temperature of anyone entering your building to provide additional peace of mind, alongside any hygiene and sanitation regimes you are putting in place.

Thermal cameras can be installed at reception and other building entrance areas to ensure that anyone arriving at your building is in good health. This provides excellent protection for your workforce and any visitors to your building, from couriers to guests, and means you can prevent people going further into your premises, reducing the risk of passing on any infectious disease, such as CV19. It also alerts the individual to their own health needs and should encourage them to arrange for a CV19 test at the earliest opportunity and to self-isolate for 14 days as current guidance advises.

Thermal cameras will also protect your staff, make them feel more comfortable about returning to work and this is a very affordable solution, which makes it even more attractive. The fact you are investing in this kind of technology will also further improve their perception of you as an employer, which will also support their mental health and wellbeing, as well as their productivity and goodwill towards their job and workplace as a whole.

Fire risk assessments

In the usual way, fire risk assessments are legally required annually or bi-annually for commercial businesses, depending on the size, layout of the building and whether there have been any material changes to the building inside. If you are going to change the layout of your building to accommodate social distancing for your workforce, then it is likely you will need another fire risk assessment. We have in-house fire safety experts who can provide a comprehensive risk assessment for your entire premises, using the correct documentation and procedures. If you’re not sure whether you need to change anything, our fire inspectors are really happy to talk you through what is required and help you understand whether you need a more up-to-date assessment or not.

Fire warden training

Make sure you check to see how many fire wardens you need for your company and how many are returning to the office. We’re aware of some clients who have most of their trained fire wardens still furloughed and so they are making new arrangements to train people who are back working in their business. We can deliver the training onsite, which is far preferable to an online course. The course we provide is half theory and half practical and includes handling real (heavy) fire extinguishers to put out safely controlled fires. This means your fire wardens are comfortable with procedures and confident in the deployment of the different types of fire extinguishers you will have at your place of work.

Fire extinguisher inspections

The fire extinguishers we supply all come with a five-year warranty and it is worth checking to see how recently your fire extinguishers were inspected or replaced. We would also recommend you conduct a fire drill within 14 days of returning to work to remind all your staff of the procedures you have to keep them safe in the event of a fire. This is even more pertinent if your workforce is smaller – or larger – than it was before as people may be new, or have relied on colleagues to understand the process and not bothered to pay sufficient attention in the past. It is also worth checking that your fire and smoke alarms and other fire preventative measures you have in place are all still fit for purpose. We would recommend this is done prior to opening up to your staff or within the first seven days of returning back to work on the premises.