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Five important fire-safety questions for the return to work

For many small to medium businesses, the past 18 months have been a uniquely challenging time. The outlook certainly seems more positive, but some careful planning and consideration may be required before embarking on a return to the workplace.

For the vast majority, being in the office, warehouse or shop hasn’t been an option for over a year and the business you closed the doors on may not be exactly the one you are returning to. A year is a long time and not only might your customers’ habits have changed but so too some of your working practices. Some colleagues may not be returning (or only doing so part time) and reconfiguration of rotas and workspaces to accommodate this shift to ‘hybrid working’ is top of the agenda for many companies.

Although easy to overlook amongst the many preparations for the return to the ‘new normal’, an important inclusion is a review of your fire risk. Fire risk assessments are vital in helping businesses to recognise and take the necessary preventative and protective safety measures.

These assessments involve thoroughly assessing and recording:

  1. The fire risks in the environment
  2. The likelihood of a fire occurring
  3. Who and what might be affected
  4. Actions and equipment needed to lower risks and improve safety.


Fire risk assessments are a legal requirement of The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and The Fire (Scotland) Act 2005. They should be carried out at least annually or whenever there has been a significant change – and it’s fair to say the global pandemic fits that description. To help you, here are five questions for your business to consider.

What impact have social distancing measures had on your office or workspace and on your previous fire evacuation plan and assembly points? 

For example, ‘one-way systems’ may have diverted original evacuation routes or made them harder to access or fire doors may have been kept open to help airflow without correct automatic alarm fire door closure systems. Or perhaps your previous evacuation plan was through a neighbouring office that’s now closed. Have you moved premises, had to downsize or reconfigured existing space? Any change is enough to re-evaluate the risk and if necessary put a new plan in place.

Will any staff changes have a knock-on effect on the safety of your premises and people?

Perhaps those who carry out fire drills are no longer with the business, in which case do you now need other team members to be trained as fire marshals or wardens? Or is it simply that after months out of the workplace, training is out of date and needs renewing.

Have any of your employees’ personal or physical circumstances changed?

They may be returning with medical conditions they didn’t have before, or a disability that prevents them safely evacuating the building unaided. Do you have the right measures in place to accommodate this? Understanding your team, their changing needs and implementing adequate measures to ensure their safety in the workplace is morally and legally part of your duty of care.

Has the way your business now operates increased the fire risk?

Systems that have been out of use for long periods of time, stock that has been lingering or not been moved during the pandemic, out of date materials on the shop floor – any of these factors could create a greater fire risk for your business. These unforeseen or unavoidable changes that weren’t even on your radar 18 months ago could be disasters just waiting to happen, severely impacting operations and continuity just when you’re ready to return to business as usual.

When was your fire safety equipment last inspected?

All fire safety equipment is subject to regular checks, but these may not have been carried out due to lockdown restrictions. Everything from smoke detectors, emergency lighting and cameras, through to the extinguishers themselves should be thoroughly checked to ensure they are in full working order and within their expiration date. Alarms – including those connected to a monitoring centre – should be tested too.

These are all factors that could be putting your businesses at risk, but mitigating these risks doesn’t have to be a burden. The best place to start is with a professional Fire risk assessment. This will highlight the level of risk in all areas across premises, property and people and report on what needs to be addressed to reduce the risk to an acceptable level.

We’re here to help

Securitas is fully accredited to conduct fire risk assessments that meet all aspects of fire safety legislation. As part of the process we carry out a comprehensive survey of the premises, the property and the people within it. Once completed we can provide everything you might need from staff training, equipment installation, maintenance and monitoring through to a fully trained first response team if required.

If you have any questions, need some advice on fire safety or would like to arrange a fire risk assessment, get in touch using the form below. Whatever business you’re in, our business is here to help keep it safe.

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