The outbreak of COVID-19 has already led to truly global impacts. These impacts are not only health-related, but are being experienced within the world of economics and in social and cultural sectors as well. What’s worse is that the anxiety we’re all experiencing is only being further fuelled by the lack of certainty surrounding the situation. Uncertainty that politicians are unable to assuage, try though they might. We can be sure of certain things, however: this pandemic will eventually pass, life will go back to a semblance of normality and as with everything, life will go on. Unfortunately, beyond those facts, there is much less surety. Despite the best estimates from scientists and economists the world over, nobody can say with any real degree of confidence just how long the current, strict restrictions will be kept in place. Such extended periods of inactivity within facilities of all kinds means that maintaining compliance is absolutely essential. There are certain facilities management tasks that Munday + Cramer simply cannot go by without doing, whatever the severity of the wider situation at hand may be.
With that in mind, we’ve compiled a facilities management compliance checklist demonstrating just how much there’s still to be doing in the meantime so that facilities are safe for as and when the lockdown begins to lessen.
High-Priority Facilities Management Compliance
If you can imagine a sliding scale, the following tasks are those that sit at the very end, those that must be done even though the buildings are being left unoccupied:
- Water Quality Testing: Falling under L8/HSG 274 legislation for water quality management, various checks on a facility’s water systems must be carried out during the lockdown period. These include regular temperature checks on calorifiers and water outlets – both hot and cold. Alongside this, any outlets must be ‘run’ weekly so as to avoid the build-up of bacteria and stagnating water. This mitigates the risk of any Legionella colonies developing which is vital in preventing the outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease. Upon initial return to a facility following the lockdown, extra care should be taken by personnel to disinfect and clean cold water storage tanks where the risk of stagnating water is more prevalent.
- Fire Alarms: Fire alarms require monthly testing regardless of whether a building is occupied or not. Operators must ensure the alarms are fully functional and that all relevant points are tested as per standard, industry requirements.
- Gas Safety Certificates: These annual certifications are provided for boilers, heating equipment, kitchen equipment and gas point-of-use water heaters. Should these certificates become out-of-date, then there could be serious legal and fiscal ramifications in the event that something goes wrong.
There are then those measures which apply only if the facility in question remains occupied:
- Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations: Abbreviated to LOLER, these are twice-yearly services that must continue to be carried out and subsequently certificated. Failure to do so results in the equipment (passenger lifts, in this instance) being taken out of commission, which in turn can present serious access concerns to those within the facility.
- Emergency Lighting: In an occupied building, there would be various lighting tests carried out throughout the year. Firstly, there needs to be monthly ‘flick’ tests, then there’s also the need for annual discharges.
You can see then that the lockdown hasn’t stopped everything, not by a long stretch. There are still plenty of areas of facilities management that require continual upkeep to maintain compliance with regulations.
Lower Priority, But Still Important
There are also those testing measures and certifications that may not have as drastic impact on health and safety as, say, water testing might. However, their upkeep is just as important in its own right. In fact, failure to keep updated with the relevant certifications can lead to major issues like invalidations of insurance. Big pieces of legislative work such as Electrical Inspection Condition Reports, for example, only roll around once every five years. If one of these reports is due during the lockdown this obviously presents a significant issue. Maintaining proactive channels of communication between the report’s issuing body and the practice in charge of facilities management is essential in establishing whether there’s room for leeway, given the current circumstances, or whether the reports need to be carried out as normal. Communication will continue to play a key part for as long as this lockdown goes on for.
It’s A Balancing Act
As with so many things in life, maintaining compliance as a practice in these unprecedented times is going to be all about taking things on a case-by-case basis; there are those facilities management processes that are less time-critical than those mentioned above. A failure to update them, however, could lead to significant legal problems should there be a failing. The decisions as to which processes get carried out and which don’t, therefore, will be as much an ethical decision as it is anything else.
Take, for example, those intruder alarms that are linked to the emergency services. These services are beyond stretched at the minute what with everything going on in the current climate. If these alarms aren’t monitored and updated, you get an increased risk of false alarms. False alarms a) result in reams of time-consuming bureaucracy in the form of fines that these services could be better spending elsewhere and b) often lead to the call-out of emergency services to the facility in question. This, again, is something entirely undesirable at any time, but especially currently. So, what at first glance may seem like something innocuous enough, especially for unoccupied buildings, can transpire as being important to keep a regular check on.
With another three weeks of lockdown just announced at the time of writing, we’re dug in for the long haul. This presents obstacles and hurdles, but not ones that are insurmountable. When it comes to facilities management, Munday + Cramer has a duty to uphold compliance in line with industry standards, so that every facility is in perfect working order to go back to in the future. If you’d like to find out more about our facilities management work, then get in touch. Contact us today on 01245 326 200. Alternatively, visit our news page for more valuable industry insights.