Property insurance specialist NFU Mutual is urging commercial property owners and their tenants not to neglect Fire Risk Assessments during the pandemic.

The warning comes as NFU Mutual claims statistics reveal a 46% spike in the number of commercial property fires during lockdown. *

Trevor Palmer, Property Insurance Specialist at NFU Mutual, said: “The ongoing global crisis has put pressure on commercial property owners and their tenants as they adopt new measures to ensure working environments are COVID-secure, often involving changes to the premises.

“Having seen a spike in our commercial fire claims statistics, we’re concerned that the added focus on Coronavirus may be causing some premises to put other safety matters to one side.

“While following Coronavirus guidance is imperative, it should not be at the expense of other health and safety activity. Fire Risk Assessments (FRAs) are a legal requirement for all non-domestic premises, allowing identification of specific areas of fire risk and providing recommended corrective actions to safeguard occupants.

“FRAs should also be reviewed if your building undergoes significant change. Where changes impact on any common areas within a property, the owner should consider the implications on fire safety and whether the current assessment will need to be re-visited.

“Owners should also encourage tenants to assess if any changes they are making, such as introducing partitioning, changing desk layouts and exit pathways or altering fire meeting points, will have an effect on fire safety and require updates to the FRA.”

“As Coronavirus poses new challenges, it is important to give pre-existing dangers equal consideration. The risk of fire remains, and property owners should maintain efforts to protect occupants, properties and themselves from fire incidents.

“Robust owner to tenant communications are essential, and while the current focus is likely related to lease agreements, rent and service charge payments, every effort should be made to keep fire safety at the forefront of all communications.  All parties should be fully aware of where the responsibility lies for updating the FRA and making necessary changes at the property.”

NFU Mutual top tips on fire safety vigilance

  • Communication is key – keep all stakeholders up to date with Fire Risk Assessment progress and changes
  • Ensure all records of contact details are kept up to date in case they are needed in an emergency
  • Regularly review the Fire Risk Assessment, particularly if there have been any changes on the premises
  • Stay up to date with all relevant fire safety legislation
  • Consider consulting fire safety and risk management professionals for technical information on fire safety
  • While it is not a requirement for Fire Risk Assessments to be documented if there are fewer than five occupants, keeping a written record is still advisable
  • While your insurer may not ask for your Fire Risk Assessment, providing it upfront can aid clarity during any subsequent claims

For further information on Fire Risk Assessments, you can download NFU Mutual’s guidance document here: https://www.nfumutual.co.uk/news-and-stories/maintaining-fire-safety-during-lockdown