If your business has been closed during the lockdown period, your fire safety systems may not have been subject to recent testing and maintenance. Now’s the time to make sure everything is compliant – and ready to do its job properly if a fire breaks out.

Before returning to business as usual – or your new ‘normal’ – all your fire alarms, sprinklers, fire extinguishers and other key fire safety systems should be tested and checked by your Responsible Person – we recommend that any resulting service and maintenance work is then completed by a BAFE-approved engineer.

How to ensure fire safety in the workplace

Fully functioning systems are vital to the safety of your business and all those working in or visiting the premises. If you identify any faults with the systems, any required maintenance or repairs should be carried out before you re-open in order to stay compliant with fire safety regulations.

Here are the key things you need to check to minimise the risk of workplace fires – and ensure effective detection, suppression and evacuation if the worst happens.

1. Check your Fire Risk Assessment

Have you carried out a full fire risk assessment in the last 12 months? Even if you have, does it reflect the way your business will now operate with likely changes to working practices, staff numbers and modifications you may have had to make to your premises? It’s also important for all businesses to consider the impact a fire would have in the COVID-19 world, especially where new Health & Safety measures are implemented to follow Government advice on social distancing.

You may need to fully re-assess the following:

  • Staffing levels and availability to carry out an evacuation where required
  • Accessibility for anyone who may need additional assistance in an emergency

Important: Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans that were in place prior to the lockdown need to be reviewed with disabled or vulnerable individuals, to make sure procedures are still suitable.

  • Lone worker emergency action plans
  • Changes in working practices
  • Current stock levels and item types (flammability)
  • Testing & maintenance – do you have the right service contract in place?
  • Employee training – especially your Responsible Person, fire wardens or fire marshals
  • Emergency Evacuation Plan (one-way and social distancing changes)

Important: Where businesses have implemented one-way systems to enable social distancing, the impact this may have on the Emergency Evacuation Plan needs to be assessed, as does the use of lifts to evacuate staff, visitors and residents who cannot make use of the stairways.  

  • Fire service and emergency access
  • Fire equipment condition (having potentially been unused and untested for months)

This list is not exhaustive and lots of other measures will need to also be considered. Please contact our experts if you want to review your fire prevention plan or need a full Fire Risk Assessment.

2. Check Your Fire Alarm System

Are your alarms up to date in terms of testing, inspection and maintenance? Maintaining regular inspections, at specific periods and intervals, is a firm requirement under British Standards which informs your compliance under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

3. Check your Emergency Lighting

Is your emergency lighting suitable, sufficient and maintained? All emergency lighting systems must be tested monthly in accordance with BS EN 50172 / BS 5266-8.

4. Check your fire extinguisher requirements

Are there enough fire extinguishers available in the required locations? Fire extinguisher maintenance is essential to ensure your extinguishers are ready for use in an emergency situation in accordance with the BS 5306-3.

5. Check your sprinkler system (if installed)

If you have a fire sprinkler system, have the sprinkler heads been regularly maintained? Fire sprinkler systems should be inspected at least once a year.

6. Check your dry and wet risers (if installed)

BS 9990 requires dry risers to be tested under pressure annually with a visual inspection every six months. Replace any worn or missing parts including washers, straps, padlocks, gaskets etc.

7. Check your fire doors

Are your fire doors in good working order & regularly maintained? When staff return to your premises, you should also remind them that – even though it may seem like good hygiene practice in the current circumstances – fire doors should remain closed and must not be held or wedged open as this will render them ineffective should a fire break out.

Blog: How to prevent fire hazards in the workplace >>

8. Check all high-risk areas

Before your business re-opens, you should check all high-risk areas (e.g. kitchens, plant rooms, electrical intakes, server rooms, boiler rooms) to ensure no combustible materials have built up during the lockdown. Particular care should be taken when re-energising any plant and equipment, to minimise sudden ignition risks.

9. Check portable electrical equipment

Where portable electrical equipment and appliances have been switched off during the lockdown restrictions, you should consider if portable appliance testing (PAT) is required to ensure the safety of this equipment before re-use. This check should be extended to staff returning to work with privately owned non-tested portable appliances and charging equipment.

10. Check stored flammable materials

It’s likely that you’ll now be using and storing high volumes of alcohol-based hand sanitiser, and so you should consider the flammability of your stock and the associated risks. Check all warning labels and keep away from ignition sources i.e. heat, sparks, open flames, hot surface and smoking materials.

11. Check any fire alarm remote monitoring

If your fire alarm is linked to an Alarm Receiving Centre/Remote Monitoring Service, this connection should be tested to ensure a working response in case of emergency. Please contact your service provider to ensure that their service to you is not affected by the Coronavirus pandemic.

Important: When returning to work and testing fire alarm equipment, care should be taken to manage or prevent unwanted fire signals or false alarms to the emergency services. If sent to the Brigade, these false alarms divert resources away from responding to emergencies or supporting the fight against Coronavirus. Please contact your service provider for help and guidance on carrying out any testing required.

12. Check your emergency escape routes

All re-opening businesses should carry out an ‘evacuation inspection’ (e.g. stairways and corridors) as soon as possible to ensure they are clear and accessible for all people in the building. This inspection should include all external parts of the escape route to ensure fire exit doors can be opened in an emergency (these might have been locked during the lockdown) and no obstructions exist once outside of the building.

Discover AOV smoke ventilation >>

Where escape routes and processes are altered to implement social distancing and other safety measures within your building, this needs to be communicated to all staff so they can familiarise themselves with any changes. Any fire action notices will need amending, where necessary, and it’s critical that you check fire exit doors too – they are vital to the efficiency of your escape routes and to your staff, as they can prevent a fire and/or smoke spreading through your building.

Even if your drill is largely unchanged, it’s important to run a ‘refresher’ and ensure any new staff are fully informed when it comes to emergency procedures.

Important: If you share an escape route with another business, it may not be open as usual. Arrangements may be needed with these businesses to ensure shared escape routes can still be used, or alternative escape routes located. 

With a number of specialist fire businesses across the JLA Group, we provide a full range of fire safety services all over the UK – from initial fire risk assessments to equipment & device installation and maintenance cover.

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The partnership between Grosvenor Contracts London Ltd and JLA Ltd shows that the prognosis for infection control in the NHS is extremely positive, thanks to OTEX Ozone Disinfection.

With so much pressure on NHS budgets, it’s no surprise that hospitals are scrutinising their spend in every department. And when it comes to laundry, operators are constantly torn between various options. In uncertain times, it can be tempting to stick with what you know, but with proven disinfection, instant verification, cost savings and the Department of Health (RRP1) recognition that come as part of the OTEX package, those at the frontline of healthcare laundry processing continue to champion low-temperature ozone technology. Here, two such industry leading partners explain why choosing to disinfect your laundry at low temperatures using ozone comes with unrivalled peace of mind.

While working on behalf of prominent healthcare clients as joint Managing Director at Grosvenor Contracts, Ollie Austen has observed at close quarters the dual between traditional thermal washing methods and ozone laundering. But with a requirement to provide hospitals and other NHS organisations with cost-effective services, help them meet HTM01-04 (formerly CFPP01-04) guidelines, deliver excellent wash quality and process large volumes to keep wards running smoothly on a daily basis, he believes there has only ever been one winner.

“Although Ozone laundering is a long-established technology with proven track record of being more effective than traditional thermal washing – as well as recognition as such from the Department of Health – the wash temperature debate can still be heated. But for us, nothing beats low temperature OTEX Ozone Disinfection. It wins hands down in the hygiene stakes by proving that disinfection has taken place on every cycle, and ambient water temperature washing also means linen, curtains, mops and cloths last longer. Some people question the merits of using anything less than a 75°C cycle, but why risk damaging fabrics by using high temperatures to achieve disinfection when you can gently clean them, extend fabric life, kill bacteria such as MRSA, E.Coli and C.difficile at typically less than 40°C – and print off a verification receipt to demonstrate HTM01-04 (formerly CFPP01-04) Best Practice after each wash?”

Grosvenor, having trail-blazed OTEX a number of years ago, continue to be healthcare’s lead-innovators in using ozone to wash linen, despite the method’s widespread plaudits from the medical profession – highlighted by renowned Consultant in ozone technologies, Dr Rip G Rice:

“Commercial laundries have found that adding ozone to wash soiled linen kills microorganisms including the prevalent methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Clostridium difficile (Rice, 2009a*). Furthermore, ozone laundering of microfibre mops and cloths rids these cleaning materials of microorganisms without structurally damaging the microfibres themselves (Humphreys, 2012**).”

Stephen Baxter, JLA’s CEO, highlights the importance of teamwork in the laundry supply chain, and why learning from the past is essential in setting industry examples in the future.

“Our insights gained while working with healthcare organisations to develop on-premise laundry and infection control solutions have enabled us to deliver compliant, high performance systems to off-site commercial healthcare laundries too.  We pioneered ozone laundry in 2004, and it’s pleasing to work in close partnership with a business like Grosvenor, that joins us in continuing to find ways of staying at the forefront of laundry processing – and setting the standards in cleaning, disinfecting and caring for what they wash.”

Jackie Hook, in-house Chemist at JLA, played a central role in developing OTEX almost ten years ago, and is proud of the mark it has made on the laundry industry since.

Ozone ticks all the boxes for a healthcare organisation. It disinfects on every cycle, eliminating user error; it works at low temperatures to save energy+; it can be used in large volumes in barrier washers with a range of machine sizes up to 90Kg; and although naturally powerful as a disinfectant, ozone washing increases the lifespan of fabrics. Other laundry methods have their place, but no other solution offers the all-round peace of mind that OTEX does. As the Rapid Review Panel acknowledged in 2009, put simply, Ozone is more effective in decontamination than traditional methods.˜

*Rice RG, DeBrum M, Hook J, Cardis D, Tapp C (2009a) Microbiological benefits of ozone in

ozone laundering systems. Ozone: Science & Engineering 31: 357–68.

**Humphreys PN, Hook J, Rout S (2012) Evaluation of the cleaning efficiency of microfibre cloths processed via an ozonated laundry system. J Infection Protection 13(4):104–8

Showcase Hospital Technology Review Report Number 8 (Southampton)

˜Basic research and development, validation and recent in use evaluations have shown benefits that should be available to NHS bodies to include as appropriate in their cleaning, hygiene or infection control protocols. (recommendation 1). Evidence shows that it is more effective in decontamination than current laundry systems. Department of Health, Sep ‘09

As the care industry’s leading commercial partner for almost 40 years, we’ve gained unique insights into how care homes operate, and so we understand better than most how to help your kitchen and catering areas work more efficiently. If you want to spend more time looking after your residents than you do looking after your washing up, here’s a ‘tick list’ to keep handy when looking for a new dishwasher.

5 things to look for when choosing a dishwasher for your care home

1. Robust commercial equipment

It goes without saying that you need to process your loads at much faster speeds than a domestic appliance can manage, and also need the reassurance of equipment that is built to last. It’s therefore vital that you choose robust, easy-to-use commercial dishwashers, glasswashers and utensil & pot washers that can get through hundreds of items quickly, whilst washing them thoroughly and hygienically. Low water consumption, energy-efficiency, simple controls and reliability are all hallmarks of JLA’s dishwasher range, and you can benefit from all of these things for no capital outlay as part of Total Care. Importantly, commercial machines are significantly cheaper to run than domestic machines due to water usage, efficiency and cycle times with tangible cost savings for any care home currently using domestics.

It’s also worth pointing out that domestic machines being used for business operations will not be covered by their warranties – leaving you exposed to cost and inconvenience if something goes wrong.

2. Infection prevention

Preventing cross-infection is of course paramount in nursing and residential environments. Over the years, JLA has evolved products to give you all the features you need to combat the threat of MRSA and other common infections, while also giving you the reassurance of high wash quality that doesn’t require hour-long cycles to achieve. As a result, its tank dishwashers offer thermal disinfection and germicidal UV lamp disinfection programme options for Department of Health guideline compliance, while its freshwater dishwashers offer hygienic cycle times from just 11 minutes to help you improve housekeeping efficiency and kitchen hygiene.

Critically, if washing by hand (which still a lot of homes do) it is very difficult to prove that all items are being washed at the correct temperatures required to meet health and safety guide lines.

3. Tabling

Planning and designing a catering space can be daunting, and for the best results you’ll need expert advice as well as practical assistance. With JLA, you get both as standard. They’ll match your needs with the correct ‘before and after’ tabling for holding plates and cutlery, make sure you know all the possibilities offered by our tailor-made accessories, and leave you with a carefully thought-out, personalised production line. With market-leading products backed up by years of installation and building experience, its solutions allow you to scrap and rinse in a single area to save time, cut out the risk of re-contaminating items stored at the ‘clean’ side of your machine and remove the need to carry baskets across your kitchen after a wash.

No two homes are ever the same in terms of the dishwashing capacity they need, which is why, in addition to under counter tank and freshwater machines, JLA have also developed a range of passthrough machines that can cope effortlessly with up to 1260 plates an hour. Developed for the larger sites, solutions include corner installation tables and fittings, which will ensure you have the solution you need regardless of your kitchen layout.

4. WRAS compliance

The challenges you face when it comes to compliance as well as day-to-day practicality are many and varied. JLA’s experts will ensure you meet your obligations with the minimum of fuss, and can offer a full range of high performance dishwashers that are WRAS approved as standard.

5. Detergents

In a commercial care environment you need commercial detergents that enhance your machine performance and give you the best possible results. Following care-focused research, JLA’s own professional detergents will do just that, while auto-dosing means you can be sure that the right amount of chemical is used every time you wash.

Browse our commercial dishwashers

Jimmy O’Keefe and his wife Helen own and run the Borris Lodge Nursing Home in Co. Carlow. In a recent interview with JLA, Jimmy explained why OTEX is key to maintaining the highest levels of hygiene.

JLA: Why did you choose JLA?

Jimmy: I had completed some research, and was interested and intrigued with the OTEX and the ozone process. The scientific articles made sense to me and the process was soundly based on scientific data.

JLA: Did you have any on-premise laundry equipment previously?

Jimmy: We did have laundry equipment on-site but it was of domestic, semi-commercial character. We only processed residents’ personal laundry, sheets and towels – other linen was supplied by an outside contractor. At the time we had 32 beds and this outsourcing was costing us around €15,000 per annum.

JLA: Why did you opt for OTEX machines in particular?

Jimmy: We increased our capacity to 52 beds and had made provisions for an in-house laundry to cater for a larger number of residents. Because of my previous research on JLA and the OTEX process, I was happy to proceed with the its specification for my laundry requirements.

The alternative was to keep using our domestic machines or continue outsourcing. In relation to resident’s personal laundry, outsourcing was not an option, so we opted to implement our own state-of-the-art laundry facility and JLA came up with the ideal solution. Installation and training was conducted without any fuss and the transition to our own in house laundry was smooth and simple. Since we upgraded, we do about 14 loads per 24 hour period (7 loads per machine/24 hours) and can be sure that each and every item we wash is completely disinfected.

MRSA infection in our nursing home has been significantly reduced, if not eradicated due to our OTEX laundry system since 2008 – it is standard practice for all acute care facilities to swab for MRSA on admission all residents from Nursing Homes in Ireland, and any of our residents who have been re-admitted to such have been MRSA negative.

I know that the OTEX process and validation system has also been praised by H.I.Q.A (The Health Information and Quality Authority). This is the independent inspectorate in Ireland for Nursing Homes, and is the equivalent of the C.Q.C (Care Quality Commission) in England.

JLA: Are you seeing savings on energy bills, etc?

Jimmy: Our energy bills have reduced significantly and cost up to 50% less than comparable Nursing Homes.

JLA: How are you finding Total Care?

Jimmy: Engineering back up is top-class and JLA have always resolved any problems. Total Care is very good value, and I have always recommended it to my colleagues. With everything included from the machines themselves to the breakdown cover and support I receive, it is the only way to go in my opinion. My experience with JLA has been one of total satisfaction and partnership. They have listened to my requirements, advised in relation to these requirements, and provided the service and equipment to meet our specific needs.