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Returning to work: hygiene safety in the workplace

Returning to work: hygiene safety in the workplace

Now that schools have reopened and hospitality venues are preparing to follow, other businesses and offices will be planning on returning to work and opening their doors again too. Although some offices have signalled a permanent switch to WFH, this scenario isn’t always a practical option for many business operations. 

Whereas some workers might thrive WFH, others may sorely need a return to the office environment after a year in the domestic setting. And for certain employees, a balance between the two might be ideal, with employers offering a flexible arrangement.  

But above all else, there’s another concern that outweighs all the others: hygiene.  

With virtual meetings and webinars now commonplace, it’s obvious we have the technical means to drive essential communications forward; but when it comes to workplace sanitation, how does your business rate? There are certainly plenty of factors to consider and guidelines to follow. But for various reasons, some companies struggle with an effective hygiene control plan, with almost half of employers failing to carry out a Covid risk assessment or using inadequate prevention measures. Covid aside, this still seems surprising, especially when you consider that sick days have increased by 10 million since 2012. 

So what does a comprehensive business hygiene control system look like? I had the good fortune to find out recently when I started working for Fireco.  

A safe and hygienic welcome back to work

Beginning a new job is an exciting prospect, but during a global pandemic, it can also be quite strange and daunting. However, having researched the company, I knew that hygiene-control would be a major priority for Fireco employees. When I visited the offices for my induction, I was impressed with the measures that have been applied and decided to make a film about them.

 

After masking up on arrival, staff use a key fob to gain access, usefully avoiding the major touchpoint of the front door. I was then greeted by Fireco’s very own sanitising system, Germgard station, which welcomes reception guests too. Cleverly, it uses a Passive Infrared (PIR) Sensor which detects when someone is approaching the door. The connected screen then displays a message to remind the user to sanitise their hands. When the user complies, a customised message appears and then grants entry. 

It’s best to be on the safe side nowadays, so before entering the office space that’s located upstairs, another model, the Germgard System, requires you to sanitise again. 

Germgard comes in 3 different models and can be used as a stand-alone system or it can be integrated with electronic door locks, automatic doors, and access control systems. A welcome on-site presence, Germgard instantly reassures visitors that the business cares about visitor well-being. 

To further emphasise this, a temperature device sits near the main entrance. If you register over 37.8 degrees then you know it’s not safe to be at work and you need to do the right thing: go home, look after yourself and take a Covid test. 

Speaking of which, Covid Antigen rapid-result swab test kits are also available on site for staff who may not be registering the usual symptoms, but need some quick peace of mind. 

A refreshing work atmosphere 

As you make your way along the one-way system that directs you around the building, there are plenty of signs reminding you to stand 2 metres away from colleagues, as well as sanitation points throughout. Signage makes it very clear that toilets are only to be used one at a time. 

In occupied areas, all windows are open. Interior corridor doors are open too, essential in maintaining hygiene control with constant airflow providing ventilation and replacing stale air. This was underlined in Sir Patrick Vallance’s key points for the Government’s advice on returning to schools recently. 

The heavy doors are held open by Fireco’s million plus-selling Dorgard retainer and its popular sister product, the Freedor Smartsound. Dorgard is a wireless fire door retainer that holds open fire doors, allowing automatic closure on the sound of the fire alarm. Fitted onto the base of the fire door in under five minutes, Dorgard listens out for a continuous fire alarm of 14 seconds or more.

Freedor SmartSound is an overhead door closer which makes opening and closing a fire door effortless. Another wireless device, it lets you place your door open in any position and closes on the sound of the alarm.

Enough space for everyone 

There’s plenty of room to help you on your way to your desk, with zonal spacing marked out in communal spaces, including the kitchen/dining area and meeting rooms. Disposable cloths and antiviral disinfectants are also on hand to help keep surfaces clean. 

Fireco’s wide-ranging office safety measures are designed to instil confidence into anyone who needs to visit their workspace in these uncertain times. This was certainly the case with me and it just goes to show that with the right level of care, businesses can receive staff back to the working environment with confidence. 

If you need any help in welcoming your workforce and customers back to the office with peace of mind, then speak to us about our hygiene-control measures on 01273 320650

All products mentioned in this blog are available in our webshop

Germgard: Opening your building to safer measures 

Germgard: Opening your building to safer measures 

On February 22nd 2021, Boris Johnson laid out his roadmap for getting England’s services and institutions back open. Within this, it was announced that schools would reopen on March 8th with non-essential shops and outdoor venues to follow on April 12th. 

Following on from this, Chancellor Rishi Sunak declared he was providing £408 million in a support package designed to aid the struggling cultural sector. As the likes of museums, galleries, cinemas and libraries also prepare to reopen over the coming weeks, this provides some much-needed funding to help look after customers in the post-lockdown landscape. 

The smart and safe welcome back to work

The chief concern for any return to an indoor venue is infection prevention, and there are many ways to improve the customer experience whilst ensuring safety measures are upheld. To enable a successful transition where we can all fully enjoy the experience of going out again, these simply can’t afford to be short-term measures. 

Hygiene control will include:

  • Ample ventilation with fresh air regularly replaced
  • A widespread reduction of touchpoints
  • Temperature checks
  • PPE for staff 
  • The adoption of social bubbles 
  • Sanitisation points.  

The initial welcome will be vital for reassuring customers that your establishment is safe. Proprietors need to send out the message from the outset that they’re serious about the well-being of their clientele. 

Our Germgard products meet these requirements to perfection. Available in 3 different formats, they provide a welcome reminder on arrival to sanitise your hands before entering.  

 

Germgard station helps businesses reopen safely

 

Leave hygiene worries at the door with Germgard 

Our portable Germgard Station is a smart sanitising station, perfect for reception areas and lobbies of hospitality establishments. Like a hygienic gatekeeper, it uses a Passive Infrared (PIR) Sensor which detects when someone is approaching the door. The connected screen will display a message to remind the user to sanitise their hands. When the user cleans their hands, a customised message will appear and then grant entry. There is also the option to personalise the messages and graphics that customers will see.

Germgard can be used as a stand-alone system or it can be integrated with electronic door locks, automatic doors, and access control systems.

For maintaining cleanliness when entering interior rooms such as canteens, meeting rooms and toilets, the smaller, wall-mounted Germgard Lite is the ideal solution. It’s a screenless access control system that also demands the use of hand sanitiser before gaining entry. Once a user has cleaned their hands with the Bluetooth unit, the door will open.

Going with the flow 

Once customers have entered the building, successful hygiene measures dictate that it’s imperative to have good ventilation throughout. As Sir Patrick Vallance explained for the Government on 22nd Feb when discussing a return to schools, “…ventilation is going to be important as children go back, good ventilation.” 

This is where Fireco products can successfully integrate to boost hygiene-control in buildings. After entering the main doors, all interior fire doors can be kept safely open with our Dorgard devices. As well as being an effective fire safety tool, these wireless retainers can increase the flow of ventilation throughout any establishment whilst also reducing touchpoints. Quick and easy to install, they’ll only close when hearing any fire alarm that lasts more than 14 seconds. Simple, unobtrusive and effective, it’s no wonder we’ve sold over a million units since their launch.  

Ultimately it’s about creating a new, safe and welcoming type of visitor experience that stands the test of time. It’s obvious that hygiene-control is an essential factor in the success of this.

Fireco can help you safely welcome back your customers with a comprehensive return to work hygiene strategy. Call us on 01273 320650. 

Why ventilation is the secret weapon to keeping schools COVID-secure

Why ventilation is the secret weapon to keeping schools COVID-secure

In the Government press conference on the 22nd February, it was announced that all schools will reopen on the 8th March, and depending on how successful this is in keeping infection cases down, will determine whether we move to the next stage of lockdown easing. During that press conference, Sir Patrick Vallance reiterated the key measures for keeping schools Covid-secure

“ In schools, ventilation is going to be important as children go back, good ventilation. Masks will add to the protection, and hand washing and good hand hygiene adds to the protection ”

Why is ventilation so important when keeping schools Covid-secure?

To understand how ventilation helps, there have been many studies and articles explaining this.

The Government’s ‘Hands, Face, Space’ campaign stated that Coronavirus particles will remain in the air for much longer than Coronavirus droplets as they are far smaller and lighter. Recent research led by the University of Cambridge with Imperial College London, researchers found that:

“In poorly ventilated spaces, the virus behind COVID-19 can spread further than two metres in seconds, and is far more likely to spread through prolonged talking than through coughing”.

In October 2020, Spanish Newspaper El PaÍs published an insightful article; “A room, a bar and a classroom: how the coronavirus is spread through the air”, which examined how transmission varies in these different environments depending on the precautions in place. Inside a classroom of 24 students with a teacher who has Covid-19 (and no counter-measures being taken), up to 12 students could become infected within 2hrs. This reduces to 5 students when face masks are used. When ventilation is introduced the risk drops dramatically to one person or less. The importance that ventilation plays in reducing the spread of Covid transmission was promoted equally in all scenarios. All included opening doors as well as windows as part of ventilation measures.

Good airflow can protect against the asymptomatic

In November, the not-for-profit media website The Conversation published an article written by Shelly Miller, the Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Colorado in Boulder, where she wrote on how keeping indoor air clean can reduce the chance of spreading coronavirus. She reminds us that 40% of cases are asymptomatic, which can help explain how a teacher can end up addressing a classroom when no countermeasures against the virus are taken. Her guidance on airflow in the home states:

“A typical air exchange rate for a home is around 0.5 air changes per hour. Because of the complicated way air moves, that translates into taking about two hours to replace two-thirds of the air inside an average home, and about six hours to replace all of it …//… In a pandemic this should be higher, and the World Health Organization recently recommended six air changes per hour”.

All of this is supported by The Hands, Face, Space campaign which said:

“Research shows that being in a room with fresh air can reduce the risk of infection from particles by over 70%”.

What does Government guidance say?

With Councils and the Health & Safety Executive having further powers to shut premises for not being Covid-secure, it is important to take all necessary precautions to comply with Government and public expectations. The Department of Education’s ‘Higher education: operational guidance’ makes it clear about what is expected from educational establishments in regards to ventilation:

  • You should ensure that all indoor and covered areas have good ventilation in addition to other methods of risk reduction.
  • Where possible, poorly ventilated spaces should be adapted to improve ventilation or, if that is not possible, they should not be used as a teaching/learning location.
  • You should consider ways to maintain and increase the supply of fresh air, for example, by opening windows and doors (excluding fire doors) – we’ll come back to this point shortly.
  • Also, consider if you can improve the circulation of outside air and prevent pockets of stagnant air in occupied spaces.
  • Air conditioning systems should rely on fresh rather than recycled air

With Educational Secretary Nick Gibb announcing on the 25th February that it will not be made compulsory for students to wear face coverings in class, ventilation has become even more vital in keeping transmission rates down. But with many classrooms having one entry point and that door usually being a fire door, is the Government right to be saying they cannot be held open?

Can fire doors be held open to improve ventilation?

Since 23rd March 2020 (the day of the first lockdown announcement), nearly 10,000 people have viewed Fireco’s blog “is it illegal to wedge open a fire door”. With all the pressure on businesses to be COVID-secure, people have been seeking clarification on whether this takes precedence over fire safety.

On the 15th April 2020, the Fire Industry Association (FIA) managed to get clarification from the Minister for the State for Security, the Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP, that Key Worker status applied to all fire industry employees providing essential services.

Also that month, the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) released their guidance; Covid-19 – Protection – Advice to Businesses, to provide consistency for Fire and Rescue Services when issuing guidance to businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the COVID-19 Protection Fire Safety FAQs they make it clear that the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 still applies and that it is “the duty of the Responsible Person to ensure risk from fire is identified and suitable measures implemented”. One key point raised was the issue of wedging fire doors:

“Q. Can we wedge open fire doors to stop people from touching handles?

A. No, fire doors are an important fire safety measure, keep fire doors closed and follow government advice on hand washing and cleansing hard surfaces. Fire doors can only be held open by automatic releasing hold-open devices specifically designed and installed for this purpose”.

Unlike the Department of Education’s ‘Higher education: operational guidance’, it is made clear that rather than using a door wedge, there are legal and compliant ways to hold open a fire door that can be used to increase ventilation and reduce touchpoints.

Keeping schools Covid-secure with Fireco

In 2020, Fireco saw unprecedented demand for its Dorgard range, as companies from all sectors saw it as the quick, easy and compliant way to satisfy both fire safety and COVID-safety requirements within their buildings. Fireco’s Dorgard range has been a market leader for retrofit fire door retainers for over 25 years and by September 2020 we had sold our millionth Dorgard. One of the reasons for this surge in demand during the pandemic is the fact that Dorgard is ready straight from the box and only takes four screws to attach to the door – a simple task for any handyman.

Every type of workplace has invested in Dorgards – ranging from primary schools & care homes to social media giants & Grand Prix teams – and this is expected to continue now that the Government has laid out the roadmap for easing restrictions. It’s been made clear that in order to have our freedom back in June, we need to keep infection rates down and increasing ventilation will be fundamental in achieving this.

Buy Dorgard today and improve ventilation to help keep your school COVID-secure.

Written by James Cox, Senior Sales Manager at Fireco.

Are you in control of the fire safety compliance for your property portfolio?

Are you in control of the fire safety compliance for your property portfolio?

Since Grenfell, fire safety in social housing has been in the spotlight. The standard of existing fire safety has been scrutinised and reviewed, with terms such as stay-put policy, EWS1 forms, The Hackitt Report, and ACM cladding all becoming household topics of discussion. Billions of pounds are being spent on Type 4 Fire Risk Assessments (FRA), cladding removal, door replacement programmes and waking watch. Housing groups are now putting more and more pressure on manufacturers and contractors to provide them with the assurance of compliance, with BIM and the Golden Thread becoming the expectation rather than the exception.

With the evolution of regulations and requirements, it may seem like there is a lot to keep on top of and checking all buildings efficiently can be more challenging. This raises the question: what can we do to keep on top of the ever-changing demands of a compliant and fire safe building?

Problem 1: Door closers are often damaged or stolen

An Inside Housing analysis of Grenfell survivors’ statements revealed that out of 81 flats, 46 of them described problems with fire doors – the main theme being missing self-closing devices. 4 years later, this issue is still unresolved.

In a recent conversation that Pete Davies, Fireco’s Business Development Manager, had with a local authority in the South East, he found out that out of 6000 general-purpose flat entrance doors, 1700 had closers disengaged or removed. In a conversation with another housing association customer, they explained that 40% of closers were missing from their general needs accommodation.

Problem 2: Keeping track of all the compliance information for the whole property portfolio

Within housing associations there can be anything from 500 to 80,000 properties in one portfolio. Keeping track of all of these properties can take a lot of time and coordination, however, this still needs to be done. The Golden Thread requires accurate and up-to-date records of all a building’s data through every stage, starting with the architects and then right through the chain of manufacturers, contractors and risk assessors.

The solution: How to keep track of fire safety in social housing

Fire safety compliance cannot be achieved overnight. There will be regulation updates, maintenance schedules to organise and expensive projects to plan, whilst a change of tenants can also act as variants as to whether your building is compliant. However, we can offer a way for you to take a bit more control of your property portfolio and help you keep track of what’s going on with parts of your building with live information.

A laptop on a table being used by someone. Th screen shows Fireco's product, InSite, compliance monitoring software.

Our new InSite software allows you to remotely monitor the status of all Fireco Pro door furniture located in your buildings from one device. If you are using our free-swing closer, Freedor Pro , for residents with mobility issues, you will be able to see instantly whether it has been tampered with or removed. You will also have the serial number, installation date, battery life, signal strength and current status. You can assign each device with the corresponding flat number and whether the resident is part of a PEEP, as well as the date due for the next inspection.

All our Pro Range door products are Cat A compliant meaning they can be installed in high-risk areas in accordance with your FRA. The Pro System is radio-controlled via ProHub which is hard-wired into your communal alarm panel, automatic opening vent (AOV) or sprinkler system.

With Fireco’s Pro Range & InSite Software, you can rest assured that one major part of your building compliance has been made easy.

If you need help with fire safety compliance in your buildings, call us on 01273 320650.

Keep your employees safe with COVID-19 rapid-result test kits

Keep your employees safe with COVID-19 rapid-result test kits

Throughout the pandemic, we have been ensuring that our office and manufacturing space is COVID-secure, to prevent the spread of the virus and keep our workforce safe. As a manufacturer, we can’t afford to stop altogether and due to the virus spreading so easily, we have constantly reviewed and updated our prevention methods.

As expected, some of our employees have contracted the virus, most likely outside of the workplace. Our Chief Commercial Officer even wrote about the experience of him and his family contracting the virus from his children attending school.

We have been able to use and even manufacture our own products to help us tackle the spread of the virus, giving us more control over the safety of our workplace. We haven’t had to rely on delivery times, finding and buying products from different suppliers or hoping that what we’ve chosen will work.

However, one element that we felt was missing from our hygiene strategy was actually testing our employees. We have reduced touchpoints, improved ventilation, installed hand sanitisers, provided face masks and shields, have a temperature check by the door and one-way system. But, as said in James’ blog, when his family contracted COVID-19 their beginning symptom was a headache – not a temperature. 

Due to this, we decided to introduce rapid-results test kits to employees. We wanted to offer peace of mind to those who need to come into work, that all people on-site had tested negative. This peace of mind is priceless during such a challenging time and has made our employees feel safe when coming to work.

We have already helped many businesses with their hygiene control measures. However, we want other companies to experience the same peace of mind that we have, which is why we now sell rapid-result COVID-19 test kits through our online shop

COVID-19 rapid-result test kit

Our online shop provides a complete hygiene control solution:

Dorgard, Dorgard SmartSound & Freedor SmartSound – Hold your doors open safely and legally, to reduce touchpoints and improve ventilation.

Germgard – Reduce cross-contamination in your building by promoting or enforcing the use of hand sanitiser.

Face Shields – To be worn with face masks for added protection.

COVID-19 Test Kits – Ensure that the workforce in your premises has a negative test result and provide peace of mind to employees.

If you need help with your COVID-secure strategy or your return to work strategy, call us on 01273 320650, or visit our online shop.

Monitor your sites remotely with Fireco’s new software

Monitor your sites remotely with Fireco’s new software

Fireco is excited to be starting the year off by introducing a new innovation to its product range! This product has been developed throughout 2020 with the aim of being able to help customers operate more efficiently, reduce costs and meet compliance requirements.

Introducing InSite, Fireco’s open and unified monitoring software and the newest addition to the Pro Range.

The InSite software is cloud-based, offering remote monitoring of Fireco’s Pro Range door devices, providing real-time information about the status, battery life and signal strength through the ProHub system controller.

This software is an excellent way for Installers and Maintenance Managers to keep track of their different sites, enabling them to plan visits efficiently around the device reports.

InSite is also ideal for Building Managers, Facility Managers or even the Responsible Person for fire safety, who want to be able to ensure their building is compliant without physically having to check.

“I’ve worked with installers for 10 years and I know they will find this software invaluable for remote monitoring, system checks on-site and even pre-empting when a service is required. Ensuring critical areas of a building are compliant is of great importance and has been a hot topic in the industry this past year. InSite makes keeping buildings safe easier than ever.” Alex Stone, Commercial Services Manager.

We are planning to exhibit at FIREX in July and The Fire Safety Event in September, where we will be showcasing InSite, along with other Pro Range devices. However, we are also carrying out online product demonstrations, so no one misses out.

For more information about InSite or to sign up to a demo visit www.fireco.uk or call Fireco on 01273 320650.

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