Commercial property owners urged not to forget fire safety amidst Covid security focus

News | February 2021

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Commercial property fires have risen alarmingly since the start of the first coronavirus lockdown, according to insurance companies which have seen an increase in claims since March 2020.

PIB Insurance Brokers, which handles the insurance for fire detection and life safety specialist CDS, fears so much focus has been put on making premises Covid-secure that business owners have taken their eye off the fire safety ball.

It is reminding commercial operations of the importance of ensuring their fire risk assessments are up-to-date as they alter the layout of their buildings to facilitate Covid-safer working practices.

Russell Hatton from PIB Risk Management said: “Fire remains potentially the most dangerous and disruptive event that any business has to face. A significant amount of businesses simply never recover from the effects of a large fire. Under current regulations, most workplaces, premises and installations have a legal responsibility to carry out fire risk assessments.”

NFU Mutual, which reported a 46% rise between the start of the first lockdown and the end of July 2020, suggests that with so many other factors to be considered under the current pandemic, not least being staying afloat, fire safety may have taken a back seat.

Fire risk assessments are a legal requirement for all non-domestic premises under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (FSO) in England and Wales, as well as for the communal areas of residential buildings such as blocks of flats and sheltered housing complexes.

And while there is no specified time interval between FRAs, a new one does need to be carried out every time changes are made to the building. This includes measures many companies are making to ensure their working spaces are safe from a Covid viewpoint – such as altering desk layouts, installing partitioning, amending exit routes and moving fire meeting points.

Owners and facilities managers at premises containing a number of companies are being urged to contact tenants to see whether the changes they have made to their own units will impact the overall fire safety of the buildings they occupy.

While fire risk assessments can be carried out by the property owners, appointing a professional could be beneficial, particularly in complex or large buildings.

CDS has more than 30 years’ experience of providing such assessments to an extensive client base including universities, schools, hospitals, care homes, councils, police authorities, social housing providers, hotel chains, warehouses, distribution centres, factories and airports.

For more information on PIB Risk Management contact Russell Hatton at russell.hatton@pibrm.com