The outbreak of the COVID-19 virus changed a lot of things. It changed the entire country’s landscape, especially for businesses. It changed the way we do business, live life, work on jobs, and the mode of business operations, to mention only a few. There is no doubt that we need to keep working on finding new ways to move forward.
The lockdown measure used to help stop the virus’s spread made things more complicated because only a few business sectors didn’t get affected. It left only a few businesses, such as the health sector, negatively untouched but caused them to work extra. So, we can also say it affected them.
However, the big question for many business owners is what the future looks like for business in this new era?
Here, we will look into how Coronavirus has affected businesses and how to adapt to the changes. We’ll also provide fire safety for business organizations and companies that have continued to operate or are looking to reopen in some capacity.
How Coronavirus Has and Will Affect Businesses
Covid-19 lockdown measures took effect in March 2020, and since then, many businesses have been unable to operate as they should. Most of such businesses fall in the non-essential business category. Non-essential businesses were not allowed to open up during the lockdown, only the essential businesses were allowed to open, but they worked under strict guidelines.
Only businesses that can operate by providing contactless services were allowed to open and do business. Where close contacts are required, it’s against the rule to open. For this reason, many businesses have struggled to survive. Those who survived are struggling to reopen, even after the lockdown. Those who struggled to reopen are striving to stay open.
This struggle to survive could mean different things to different businesses. It positively affects fire safety for commercial premises. Maybe your business or office space, shopping complex, etc., has been re-designed to fit the unavoidable change in modus operandi, or it has become unoccupied. Your current goal is to start up again. You have a lot of factors to consider, including fire safety.
Business Fire Risk Assessments
Fire risk assessment is essential even if your business space is not currently running. It might not feel necessary, especially if you’re yet to open the doors of your business after the lockdown. But the fact is that it is non-negotiable. You are legally bound to ensure you do everything that needs to be done to reduce the risk of the fire incident and protect the lives of your employees and customers, as well as your life.
Maybe you were preparing to take the periodic risk assessment demanded of you by the law before the lockdown started, and you postponed it. Here is why you shouldn’t postpone it any longer;
- It’s easier to carry out a risk assessment for an empty property while you prepare for the social distancing required by the law and ensure your building is ready for your staff’s return. So, if you plan to open your business soon, now is the time to carry out the needed risk assessment.
- Because of the unavoidable changes in the operating system, your office space’s arrangement might need to change. In such a case, you must have a new fire assessment to ensure the new business space arrangement is according to fire safety guidelines before you have people in the building.
COVID-19 Fire Risk Assessment Checklist
Fire Risk Assessment
- Since February or since reopening, have you carried out a fire risk assessment?
- Since February 2020, have you carried out a professional inspection on your fire extinguishers?
- Has the layout of your business environment changed, and do you now require different fire extinguisher placements?
- Are the numbers of staff you have trained to use the fire extinguisher enough to cover your business environment?
- Do you have the fire doors closed throughout the building? (unless you fit them with fire door closer)
- Since February, has a professional come to inspect your fire door?
- Do you regularly push plates and clean door handles?
- Since reopening, has your fire alarm been tested?
- Since reopening, have you had your fire alarm, fire detector, and call points maintained professionally?
- Has the automatic release on your fire doors been tested with a fire alarm trigger?
- Since reopening, have you carried out fire drills in your business building?
- Have your staff received instructions and training on fire evacuation and procedures?
- Have you professionally checked and maintained access route and exit since reopening?
Fire Safety Training
- Are there enough trained firewalls currently at work?
- Do all your staff know their roles, the nearest exit, and everything they need to do?
- Have you provided fire safety training to the staff since the business reopened?
Fire Extinguishers for Businesses
You must ensure all your fire safety equipment is in order and good working condition if you’re planning to reopen your business after the lockdown. Whether according to plan or not, there’s a maintenance check coming up soon. Now is the best time to professionally check if your fire equipment is in good condition and legally compliant.
An essential part of the fire drill and prevention is the Fire Extinguisher. You have to strategically place them so that they can provide coverage in the time of need. You will need to reposition them before post-lockdown reopening. That’s because of the change in your business environment’s structure and layout imposed by the social distancing law. When you hire a professional fire risk assessment, you will get to determine the best place to place the fire extinguishers.
Also, if you have only a limited number of your workers resuming to work while the rest work from home or can’t be around the business environment, it’s best you ensure there are enough workers trained to use the fire extinguishers.
Training for Businesses
According to the reduction in close contact requirements, most businesses will reopen with a limited staff number. However, training the staff on the use of fire equipment and other procedures is vital. So, if the staff you previously trained have not returned to work, then you will have to look to train a new set of staff from among the ones that have resumed.
The goal of the training is to protect and arm your business with individuals who are knowledgeable about fire safety and other areas such as;
- Fire Drills
- Evacuation procedures and points
- Equipment handling (e.g., Fire extinguishers)
- Fire risk assessment review
Fire Drills for Businesses
A change in your business environment’s layout would mean that you need to readdress fire drill issues. Your new staff or the few ones that reopened the business may not know about evacuation plans. Therefore, now that you’re planning to reopen is the best time to train new staff on things to do and how to get them done in the event of a fire.
So, if your business is one of the many closed businesses due to the lockdown and you’re already planning to reopen, it is crucial that you carry out fire drills with your staff, either new or old, to train or refresh them on safety procedures.
The goal for former staff is to remind them about what to do in an emergency. Fire drills also highlight where changes have been made, significantly if you have changed your business environment’s layout.
Besides, the various social distancing measures such as the one-way system tend to compromise fire safety, but you should not allow that. You should assess your staff’s means of escape to avoid channeling many people in a restricted route.
You should also ensure people travel through the proper route for easy escape. The fire escape route should always be accessible even when there is a limited amount of staff.