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Maintaining fire safety during lockdown

There’s no doubt that the ongoing global crisis has put pressure on commercial property owners and their tenants. Many have needed to adopt new measures to ensure working environments are COVID-secure, including changes to the premises.  

And while following Coronavirus guidance is imperative, it shouldn’t be at the expense of other health and safety activity. Between 22nd March 2020 to 31st July 2020, our claims statistics revealed a 46% spike in the number of commercial property fires during lockdown compared to the same period last year.

With the spike in the number of commercial property fires during lockdown, we’re concerned that the added focus on Coronavirus may be causing some premises to put other safety matters to one side. 

Fire Risk Assessments (FRAs) are a legal requirement for all non-domestic premises as they allow specific areas of fire risk to be identified and provide recommended corrective actions to safeguard occupants.

We’re urging commercial property owners and their tenants not to neglect FRAs.

Read our latest guidance on the importance of FRAs, including establishing who’s responsible for implementing and overseeing them, how this should be communicated and the need to keep insurers updated.

Significant building changes

FRAs should be reviewed if your building undergoes significant change. Where changes impact on any common areas within a property, the owner should consider the implications on fire safety and whether the current assessment will need to be re-visited.

Owners should also encourage tenants to assess if any changes they’re making, such as introducing partitioning, changing desk layouts and exit pathways or altering fire meeting points, will have an effect on fire safety and require updates to the FRA.

Pre-existing dangers

As Coronavirus poses new challenges, it’s important to give pre-existing dangers equal consideration too. The risk of fire remains, and property owners should maintain efforts to protect occupants, properties and themselves from fire incidents.

Communication

It’s essential to maintain strong communications between owner and tenant, and while the current focus is likely related to lease agreements, rent and service charge payments, every effort should be made to keep fire safety at the forefront of all communications.

All parties should be fully aware of where the responsibility lies for updating the FRA and making necessary changes at the property.

Our top tips on fire safety vigilance

  • Communication is key – keep all stakeholders up to date with FRA progress and changes
  • Ensure all records of contact details are kept up to date in case they’re needed in an emergency
  • Regularly review the FRA, particularly if there have been any changes on the premises
  • Stay up to date with all relevant fire safety legislation
  • Consider consulting fire safety and risk management professionals for technical information on fire safety
  • While it is not a requirement for FRAs to be documented if there are fewer than five occupants, keeping a written record is still advisable
  • While your insurer may not ask for your FRA, providing it upfront can aid clarity during any subsequent claims

Find out more about our Property Owners and Landlord insurance.