As the lockdown restrictions are now lifted across the UK, many businesses are gradually reopening their premises after a prolonged period of either complete closure or minimal occupancy, creating an entirely new situation for Health and Safety professionals which many will not have faced before. Whether the business own or rent a demised area within a shared building it is the responsibility of the Health and safety professional to ensure the health, safety and welfare of employees when they begin to reopen workspaces.
Besides the responsibilities of the Health and Safety professionals, the Landlord and tenant co-operation and communication lines are key during this post-lockdown period of reopening workplaces to ensure responsibilities are understood and defined.
Water system management and Legionella
Health and safety law requires employers, business owners and landlords to manage the risks of exposure to Legionella bacteria; during the COVID outbreak we have witnessed total or partial closure of buildings which raises the need for effective controls to maintain the safety of water systems.
Legionella risk assessments should be reviewed to reflect the change in building occupancy during the Covid-19 outbreak. If controls, such as flushing and temperature testing, have been maintained during the shutdown period of the building or the risk assessment has already been revised, pre-opening, and a range of controls determined then on-going maintenance and testing with record-keeping may be sufficient.
Fire safety systems
As the provisions under the Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order or the Fire (Scotland) Act have not been removed or reduced during COVID, fire risk assessments should be reviewed to reflect any changes to risk – this could include changes in occupancy levels, changes resulting from the introduction of one way systems etc.
If the property has been closed during lockdown recorded maintenance of the premises fire safety systems including fire alarm, fire extinguishers, emergency lighting, sprinkler systems and gas suppression systems etc will have continued. Arrangements need to be put in place to ensure all weekly and monthly testing continues and is recorded in the Fire Log Book.
Systems requiring thorough examination and testing of equipment
- Pressure systems
- Workplace equipment: forklifts, man safe/fall arrest systems etc
- Lifts and lifting equipment
- Gas installations
- Extraction and ventilation systems
What is the legal position?
- the legal obligation to ensure that work plant, equipment and building safety systems are maintained and safe to use
- an effective maintenance regime is essential to ensure the safety of equipment and building safety systems
- the use of thorough examination and testing continues to be a legal requirement and should be carried out wherever possible