What measures do businesses need to take to reinstate buildings, premises and the work environment following COVID-19 closure?
Below we have provided guidance on reducing risk when planning to reinstate or reopen business premises after a temporary closure. As it is not possible to provide detailed guidance for all types of business premises, we have focused on general principles that can be applied in the majority of situations. If you require more specific advice and guidance, please contact us on 0330 024 0606 or fill out our contact form.
When reinstating and/or reopening your business premises, it is critical to put together a detailed plan so the risks to your business can be greatly reduced.
What needs to be covered in your plan will differ for each business, however you may need to consider the following…
What is the scope of reinstatement works and the reinstatement plan?
It can be helpful to prepare a scope of reinstatement works at the outset. This can include:
- What are you planning to reinstate?
- A single building within a site that is already operating?
- An entire site or installation?
- What is the nature of the reinstatement?
- Is it fully occupied?
- Is it intermittently or partially occupied?
- Are any changes required to how the building/premises operated previously?
- Do you need to change the layout or make any building alterations?
- Is new machinery or equipment needed?
- Are new facilities required to adapt to social distancing and hygiene requirements e.g. additional staff changing/welfare facilities, hand washing stations, floor markings, screens and barriers etc?
- Are changes needed to how the premises are cleaned and maintained e.g. more regular cleaning?
It is also important to consider who needs to know about the reinstatement work and how they will be notified. This can include:
- Employees who are required to work within the building/premises
- Insurers and insurance brokers
- Check that policy coverage remains in place and review any existing policy conditions, endorsements and exclusions
- Regulatory bodies
- Confirm that any existing permits to operate remain in place and that there are no additional regulatory compliance requirements
- Make sure that any contractors are still operating and are able to provide the services you need (e.g. cleaning, maintenance, catering etc)
- Emergency services
- If the building has been shut down or mothballed for an extended period of time it may be pertinent to liaise with the emergency services
- Neighbours or other businesses
- Neighbours or other businesses that share the building or premises may have adapted their own work practices, which could affect your own reinstatement plan.
Update your emergency procedures
You should also plan to review and update your emergency procedures to take into account the building reinstatement and any changes you have made e.g. altered layouts and new hazards.
You will also need to plan for the reintroduction of security arrangements in line with the reopening of the premises. This could include:
- Reintroduction of security guards or a gatehouse operation to access the premises
- Reprogramming and reinstatement of building/site access control systems
- If you previously conducted staff security searches, these will need to take place following social distancing measures
Reinstatement of buildings and premises
Below we have listed some of the areas you need to review to minimise risk when reopening your buildings and premises.
Again, the below is not an exhaustive list and may not cover the individual needs of your business. For more specific risk management advice, please contact us on 0330 024 0606 or fill out our contact form.
Premises integrity and structural damage
Make sure you thoroughly check the building(s) for any issues that may have arisen while it has been shut down. This includes:
- Roof leaks
- Escapes of water from pipes and systems
- Subsidence, heave and building movement
- Flooding and backing up of drains/sewers
- Insect, rodent and other vermin infestations
- Malicious damage and vandalism
- Damage by trees or ingress of foliage
- Theft or break-in damage
- Damaged/faulty lighting systems
- If appropriate, inspect any perimeter fencing and gates
- Check the condition of doors, shutters and windows, make sure locks are working
- Confirm that any external security lighting is working correctly
- Review the needs for security access control and reissue keys/cards where necessary
- Inspect and service intruder alarms and CCTV systems. Review any off-site signalling arrangements
- Consider whether any additional security measures are now required
- Review and update the fire risk assessment for the building
- Inspect and service fire alarm systems
- Check the operation of emergency lighting, and consider the effect the building closure has had on battery backup units
- Check the condition of all fire doors, fire exit routes, firewalls and fire shutters
- Check the operation of smoke vents
- Make sure that any specialist evacuation equipment such as Evac Chairs are provided where necessary and that they remain in good condition
- Check and maintain all fixed fire protection and sprinkler systems
- Check the provision of all fire extinguisher appliances and that they remain in good working condition
Electrics – If the electrical installation is now overdue for its formal inspection and test required under the Electricity at Work Regulations and IET Wiring Regulations, then these works should be scheduled within the building reinstatement plan.
If an inspection and test is not yet due, then it may still be prudent to use thermal imaging tools to check for any electrical hazards associated with electrical distribution boards and any electrical connections which may have become loosened during the shutdown.
The testing of electrical circuit breakers, Residual Current Devices (RCDs) and surge protection devices is also advised.
Gas supplies – Exercise gas isolation valves and check the operation of any interlocks to fire alarm systems or any other safety devices on specific equipment or installations.
Water supplies/systems – Implement legionella risk control measures, including:
- Flushing water outlets thoroughly before use (e.g. taps, showers, hoses etc.)
- Checking adequate temperatures at sentinel taps
- Confirming the absence of legionella using testing completed by a competent person where appropriate
Floors and surfaces
It is recommended that you inspect the condition of floors and surfaces and make any and all repairs necessary. It can also be a good idea to have them thoroughly cleaned, or take this opportunity to review the risks of slips and falls.
Be sure to also check external areas, repair loose flagstones, fill potholes and make sure any grit/salt bins are appropriately stocked.
Kitchens and catering facilities
- Carry out thorough cleaning of kitchen areas and all equipment, surfaces and floors
- Check any ventilation and extraction systems, and clean and replace filters where required
- Check that servicing and maintenance of fixed fire protection systems remains in date and that all units are in good working condition
- Make sure that servicing of cooking appliances is not overdue
- Check any remaining food items and discard any out of date produce/items
- Check that pest control arrangements have been maintained and remain active/effective
- Check any floor drains for blockages
- Tidy and organise storerooms
To help businesses reopen buildings and premises following the coronavirus lockdown, we have put together two risk assessment documents that are free to download.