Business safety during the COVID-19 pandemic

Advice to support business due to the increase in the Omicron variant

Whilst the below is still relevant please take the following measures into account.

The current COVID-19 pandemic may have affected your business by reducing staffing levels, disrupting your normal working practices or changing the layout in the premises.

It is therefore vital to ensure fire safety in your business, and the safety of all the people working in or visiting your business are maintained.

Here is some business fire safety precautions to ensure fire safety is maintained during the pandemic.

  • Carry out a full review fire safety risk assessment as soon as possible.
  • Ensure Covid measures such as plastic screens to support social distancing do not hamper fire safety measures including sprinklers or smoke detectors.
  • Evacuation plans that may have been affected by staffing levels should be revisited to ensure they are still robust and adequate. There should be sufficient staff numbers to support any evacuation of people from a building, including residents
  • Keep escape routes clear from obstruction at all times to ensure evacuation from the premises can be achieved as quick as possible.
  • Arrange for additional waste collections if necessary to avoid a build-up causing an obstruction and to help drive down the potential for arson.
  • While it is important to observe the two-metre social distancing rule wherever possible during the coronavirus pandemic, in the event of a fire it is vital that people always exit a building as quickly and safely as possible, using all available means of escape.
  • Any queuing systems outside the business should also be designed to ensure they do not hamper the ability of emergency services to access a building when required to do so.
  • Ensure stock of alcohol based sanitisers are stored safely and away from any sources of ignition.

Where COVID-19 secure measures remain in place, they should not adversely affect fire safety.

Keep exit routes clear and available for use at all times.

Our Business Safety section has lots of information and advice. However, during the current COVID-19 pandemic, businesses in Tyne and Wear may be adversely affected through:

  • reduced staffing levels
  • disruption to normal working practice

But it is vital that your business’ fire safety and the safety of all the people working in or visiting your business are maintained.

The Health and Safety Executive has some really helpful information to support businesses.

In addition, we have received this guidance note from the National Fire Chiefs Council:  Protection Advice to Businesses

Competent persons

You must ensure that you have an adequate number of competent persons to help in the implementation of preventative and protective fire safety measures.

If you have absent staff you must ensure that you have adequately trained staff on-site at all times, to ensure that fire safety measures are not adversely affected.

Protection from arson

If your building is closed for an extended period of time, ensure it is secure and continue with usual measures to prevent arson:

  • Any combustible materials should be removed from site or stored securely
  • Rubbish is a potential fuel source so remove or store securely away from premises
  • Keep all entrances and exits of the building clear at all times
  • Stock should not be kept in excessive amounts

Fire safety testing

During this time you should continue to maintain and regularly test your fire safety provisions onsite (e.g. alarm test, fire drills).

Lone working

With a reduced workforce there may be an increased likelihood of people working alone within buildings; you need to ensure that these people are provided with adequate warning in case of fire so they do not become trapped.

Fire risk assessment

It may be necessary to review your fire risk assessment during this time to ensure suitable and sufficient measures are in place.

Sleeping on commercial premises

If you are allowing staff or volunteers to sleep in your business premises during this pandemic, it is imperative that you comply with current fire legislation. A Fire Risk Assessment must be carried out by the Responsible Person to identify the fire hazards and risks within the premises, then take appropriate steps to reduce them.

Secure buildings

Check premises regularly to ensure that security of the building is not compromised. If you identify any attempts of arson, contact FireStoppers: 0800 169 5558

Ensure fire safety isn't compromised

Chris Lane from our business fire safety team wants to remind businesses that fire safety must not be compromised during these difficult times. #FireSafety

Posted by Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service on Monday, 23 March 2020

Returning to your business

As your business starts to operate again, there are some key fire safety matters for you to
consider. Read our advice for re-opening safely.