What impact are remote & hybrid working models having on the fire safety of commercial buildings?

26 January 2023

The shift towards remote and hybrid working models is undoubtedly here to stay and while it’s seen as a positive change for employees, it’s also had a significant impact on the fire safety of commercial office buildings. 

Here’s what commercial building owners and those in charge of fire safety should keep in mind…

Vacant or half empty buildings

Even the simplest of buildings will require some form of a fire alarm system, and if a building has a fire alarm installed, whether it is occupied or vacant, the system must be regularly maintained. Just because a building is either vacant or not occupied to capacity at all times, fire safety maintenance should still be ensured. Additionally, with fewer people physically present in the office, the likelihood of a fire breaking out and being noticed quickly decreases so it’s imperative that fire prevention and protection measures are well maintained. 

Fire training for remote workers

Remote workers who need to come into the office sporadically may not be familiar with the evacuation procedures and layout of the building, making it more difficult for them to safely exit in the event of a fire. Adequate fire safety training should be given to all employees to ensure their safety in the event of a fire. 

Changes to workspace layouts

The expense of owning or leasing commercial buildings or offices is often the second highest expense for businesses. With the shift towards hybrid working, these buildings may now be underutilised and the ways in which they are used may have changed. This has implications for both fire safety assessments and insurance coverage.

Changes in office layout, such as the addition of work booths, partitions, comfortable seating areas, recreational facilities, and on-site restaurants and gyms, may affect the compliance with fire regulations. Without a new fire risk assessment, the altered layout may hinder the early detection of fire or unauthorised access, especially if the placement of fire detection and security devices, as well as equipment such as fire extinguishers, emergency call points, and CCTV cameras, has not been considered in the redesign.

Ensuring fire safety is maintained

Remote and hybrid working models have clearly introduced new fire safety challenges for office buildings and so it’s important for building owners and managers to take these risks into account and take appropriate measures to ensure the safety of all employees, whether they are working remotely or in the office.

To mitigate these risks, commercial building owners and managers should ensure that their evacuation procedures are clearly communicated to all employees, regardless of whether they are working remotely or in the office. And should also conduct regular fire safety audits and fire risk assessments to safely maintain standards and practices.

For help with your office fire risk assessment, contact us at Total Fire Group.

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