Fire Safety & Hybrid Working: What You Need to Know
Hybrid working combines in-office and remote policies to enable staff to split their time between the office and the home. Some businesses may require staff to work from the office on specific days. Others may take a more flexible approach, allowing staff to choose where they work, and when.
It’s a working pattern that’s growing in popularity, especially in the post-pandemic landscape. In fact, according to the Office for National Statistics, the rate of hybrid working in the UK grew substantially from 13% in February 2022, to 24% just three months later. In total, it’s estimated that around 80% of those who worked from home during the COVID-19 lockdown are now working in a hybrid fashion.
There are many benefits to hybrid working, of course. Staff may enjoy a better work/life balance. They may feel more satisfied, and more loyal to the business. Organisations may see reduced levels of absenteeism, and may even be able to lower office costs by minimising water and electricity usage.
However, hybrid working also brings new challenges, too. Especially when it comes to fire safety.
Rethinking your risks
It’s important to remember that hybrid working can impact more than just where your employees work. It can also have a massive effect on your entire risk assessment and fire protection strategy.
And unfortunately, many organisations are overlooking this fact. It’s been reported that 42% of businesses with hybrid workers are failing to undertake new risk assessments as they implement new working practices. If you’re one of them, you could be leaving your business vulnerable to fire.
If you’ve recently launched a new hybrid working policy – or you’re planning to in the future – here are a few things that you should consider to ensure you’re protecting your staff, and your business:
- Fire identification
With a percentage of employees working from home, office buildings are likely to be less well occupied. This means that it’s easier for fires to break out undetected. It’s important to ensure that there are automatic detection and suppression systems in place, such as sprinkler systems. These can help to reduce the risk of fire spread, even if a fire has not yet been identified by an employee.
- Fire wardens
A workplace fire warden is responsible for visually inspecting fire equipment, ensuring staff know what to do in the event of an emergency, and facilitating a safe evacuation. It’s important to ensure that there are an adequate number of fire wardens on-site at all times. This may mean training more fire wardens as some appointed wardens may be working from home, impacting your coverage.
- Maintenance checks
Fire protection equipment such as dry & wet risers must be inspected regularly to ensure they remain in good working order. However, this can be something that easily falls between the gaps with hybrid working, with every person believing that another has taken on the responsibility. Make sure to maintain inspection records, and create a maintenance schedule to avoid missed checks.
There are a number of ways that your evacuation plans could be affected by hybrid working. Firstly, if there are fewer people in the office and you’ve decided to change your layout, you may need to use different routes to safety. Secondly, it’s critical that a register is kept, ensuring that you know exactly who is in the building in the event of an emergency.
When implementing a new hybrid working policy, it’s a good idea to carry out a new risk assessment, ensure good fire safety awareness among your staff, and upgrade your systems if necessary. That’s what we’re here to help with. Contact Eversafe for more information on protecting your business.