13-point checklist for building maintenance before staff return
In the current uncertain environment, with many businesses reopening their premises (and some having to close them again due to local lockdown restrictions), building services and facilities managers are more important than ever when it comes to ensuring employees – returning to premises that may have been empty for a while – are safe.
There are certain specific areas of buildings that have been unused for a period that should be de-risked before staff return to using them. These include ventilation systems, lifts and escalators and all aspects of emergency systems including fire detection units and emergency lighting.
Mark Phillips, managing director at facilities management company DRS FM Services, says that it is important that company directors take the risks associated with returning to buildings that have been empty seriously – and that they work closely with their facilities management or external provider to ensure a number of checks are done before people return.
“As businesses grapple with government guidelines and restrictions, they should always put safety first and do everything they can to understand and mitigate the risks involved. The government guidelines clearly state that employers have a legal responsibility for the safety of those entering workplaces.”
Phillips notes that the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) has produced guidance designed to help employers, which highlights the key safety considerations for ventilation, lift use and occupancy, as well as general advice on safety when reoccupying non-domestic buildings.
The guidelines cover everything from the challenges of social distancing in lifts to the way in which social distancing reduces occupancy in spaces which might indicate a reduction in the need for ventilation airflow.
What follows is a helpful checklist based on the CIBSE that covers building systems covered by statutory requirements. The report notes that “building operators will need to satisfy at least themselves, and possibly insurers, regulators and enforcement bodies, that these have been maintained or brought back up to date prior to the re-occupation of a building.
“Where regular statutory maintenance or testing was due to take place during the closure and has not been undertaken then it must be carried out before the building is occupied.” The full report can be found here: https://www.cibse.org/coronavirus-covid-19/emerging-from-lockdown
Here’s the 13-point checklist for building maintenance before staff return:
1. Water systems
Employers, the self-employed and people in control of premises, such as landlords, have a duty to identify and control risks associated with legionella. If a building was closed or had reduced occupancy during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, water system stagnation can occur due to lack of use, increasing the risk of Legionnaires’ disease.
2. Electrical safety checks
These are required under the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 & BS7671 (18th edition electrical regulations). A competent electrical contractor should be consulted about any
requirements to restart electrical systems and the Electrical Contractors Association provides guidance.
3. Gas safety inspections and maintenance
These are still a statutory requirement and have not been suspended due to the coronavirus. The Gas Safe register provides guidance. It may be practical to isolate gas supplies in the first instance.
4. Emergency systems
Fire detection system testing and maintenance must be brought up to date. Active fire protection systems such as sprinklers, fire suppression and smoke control systems, fire extinguishers etc. should have up to date maintenance and inspections.
5. Emergency exits and means of escape
Fire doors and emergency exit routes should be checked for obstruction during the lockdown period and that closing or opening mechanisms are still operating correctly. Any changes to escape routes or assembly points may need signage to be changed.
6. Emergency lighting
Emergency lighting systems must be tested and demonstrated to work fully and effectively, and batteries checked by conducting a full 3-hour test. BS5266-1 Emergency lighting and BS EN 50172 Escape Lighting apply, along with Society of Light and Lighting Guidance in Lighting Guide 12 on Emergency Lighting.
7. Lifts and escalators
Passenger lifts and lifting equipment must comply with the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER) requirements. The maintenance contractor should confirm that the lifts are compliant and fit for service, although their use should be discouraged wherever possible. Further guidance is available from CIBSE.
8. Ventilation systems
Adequate ventilation is required in all occupied areas. Ventilation rates should not be reduced in line with reduced occupancy but maintained to mitigate any risk of airborne transmission. Further detailed advice on ventilation is available from CIBSE.
9. Heating systems
Where heating systems have been isolated, annual pre-heating season service checks should be undertaken prior to restarting the system.
10. BMS systems
BMS systems should be checked to ensure that operation is as expected, and any changes regarding ventilation rates, building opening times, etc. are implemented. Plant operating times may need to be extended to accommodate changes to working hours and patterns.
11. Access control & security systems
These may need to be reviewed to ensure operation is still as expected, or for isolation of certain areas of the building. Timings to operation or occupancy may need to be incorporated into the control system to accommodate staggered or shift working.
12. Portable appliances
Simple user checks should be sufficient to establish the safety of portable appliances such as kettles, microwaves etc, where an existing portable appliance testing (PAT) system regime is in place. However, use of such appliances should be carefully considered as they present a potential risk of transmission via surface contact.
13. Specialist services
Where appropriate, expert advice should be sought in relation to specialist services such as generators, UPS systems, catering equipment, process cooling, fume extract systems etc.
As well as doing the minimum safety checks required to cover the areas in this checklist, now might be a good time to consider upgrading and improving old equipment in order to improve the overall indoor environmental quality of the building. DRS FM Services is working in partnership with EFT
Consult and a number of other industry leading organisations and individuals – and also with the British Standards Institution (BSI) – to come up with a new set of standards for the health and wellbeing of non-domestic buildings.
This Publicly Available Specification (PAS) will create a set of standards for healthier buildings with the aim of improving the health and wellbeing of its occupants. It will direct how design, installation, operation, maintenance and ongoing monitoring, measuring and reporting can influence factors such as those outlined previously, and it will determine benchmarking parameters to develop a Wellbeing Performance Rating that could be applied to any building.
If you would like to get involved with the PAS, or just need help or advice managing your facilities or premises – including health and wellbeing and energy efficiency – contact us on 01792 277170 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Mark Phillips is managing director at DRS, which is part of the RD Group – an innovative, high quality, multi-faceted group of companies providing full building services solutions.
He has over 40 years’ experience in the industry and has held several operational managerial and directorial positions with some of the UK’s largest firms since beginning his career as an electrical apprentice.
The role that he holds with DRS has made use of his expertise in: business planning; commercial and financial responsibility; HR; technical reviews; new products and processes, including Indoor environmental quality; building sensor technology; controlled environment agriculture; and resource to energy.
During his extensive career, Mark has been instrumental in the successful development of several business ventures, leading transformational change at project, programme and organisational levels.