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Maintaining Compliance During the COVID Crisis


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I am the building manager of a very large office building in central London providing 24/7 critical national  services. The occupancy of the building is usual around 5,000 persons.

Due to a COVID-19 strategy, the workforce in the building has reduced to around 380 who are spread across 78,000m2 of floor space.

We usually maintain 200 Fire Wardens, but with such a reduction in staff numbers, the vast majority of them are at home and unable to carry out their core functions in an emergency - i.e. sweep an area of the building during an evacuation.

Therefore we are unable to account for our staff for the foreseeable future

We have considered our options which include gathering staff together on one floor or area. However, due to the processes carried on in this building, we are unable to due so, and the few remaining staff are spread out across the premises. Plus, the 380 staff that remain in the office are working long hours with minimal breaks, so it is not possible to stop them to provide training or briefings to equip them to undertake this role.  In any case, the notion of not having enough staff to allow pairs of Wardens sweeping floors is untenable. In any case, we have curtailed all but essential meetings which makes training difficult.

Due to our location, work carried out and difficulty producing a register of staff present it is not possible to introduce a roll call accounting system.

I am at a loss as how to proceed. It is likely that these temporary staffing measures will be in place for many months and during that time I fear we cannot comply with fire safety legislation in respect of accounting for staff. This 'best endeavours' approach is nowhere near as resilient as our usual procedure.

Do you think the fire safety enforcers/courts would be lenient at a time of national crisis? All of our fire safety infrastructure and processes are still in place, including PEEPS and a system of evacuating disabled staff (although ALL of those will be at home), its just the accounting for staff side of the procedure we can't do. I believe this falls under Article 11and Article 15 of the RRO

I would be grateful for any views and opinions 






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I think the fire safety enforcers/courts would be lenient at this time but if you revise your evacuation procedure and make office managers responsible for checking there staff in/out with instructions to report it to the chief controller at the assembly point, if they have any staff not accounted for, I am fairly certain that the enforcing authority would accept that. There is more on the firenet forum check it out. http://firenetforum.org.uk/

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Thanks Tom, I do hope common sense would prevail here

Unlike the HSE who have already issued more relaxed guidance, I have yet to see any such advice from fire safety enforcement authorities. Indeed, an enquiry I made with the London Fire Brigade's Fire Safety Dept has not even been acknowledged, let alone answered after 7 working days.

I am sure there will be restrictions on non-essential staff travelling to non operational roles such as fire safety depts, but communication and reassurance surely must be a key role for the fire service at present?

Take care

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