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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.

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.

My COVID-19 experience

My COVID-19 experience

During 2020 technology companies worked very hard to avoid the spread of Covid. Some great technology emerged during the year to avoid touching door handles and other commonly used surfaces. Interactive and innovative sanitising solutions became available along with security systems incorporating temperature sensing, occupancy counting and face mask detection. I am positive that no technology can entirely stop the spread of Covid, but I am certain it all helps.

I maintained social distance, I was careful to wash and sanitise my hands, I wore a face mask and gloves. I work in a safe environment and take my temperature every day before entering business premises. I did not contract Covid-19 from being at work, nor from social engagement. I contracted the virus, at home, in my lounge, on the sofa, most likely whilst enjoying a box set.

There was a long list of Covid symptoms throughout 2020, we were told what to look out for and when to get tested. My children attended school and very quickly there was a report of headaches. This was ignored, and since then a petition has been created to advise the government they need to be quicker in updating Covid symptoms and informing the public. Very quickly children stopped attending school and positive Covid tests increased at an alarming rate. My son, Freddie, came home with a headache just before the Christmas break. Freddie had a test, he was confirmed positive with Covid-19. I tested, my family tested, we were all negative.

Over the first two days of the Christmas break, Freddie isolated in his room, he touched absolutely nothing. His food was left outside his door, and of course being a typical 11 year old, as long as wifi was provided, he was generally in good spirits. However, trips to the toilet and occasional forgetfulness and strolling downstairs meant we did all share one thing – the air.

One piece of advice highly overlooked is the need for air circulation. 

This does not mean opening every window in the office or school, it would be freezing. The concept is very similar to that of smoke evacuation in fire safety, channeling the smoke in a certain direction through the building. We need to create the same behaviour for air to expel as quickly as possible in a controlled way. In our house, I opened the front window, and the back door, only. The fresh air was drawn in from one direction, pulled through the house and expelled from the back door. Wind, nicely helps to draw the air but having multiple windows and doors opened would create a whirlwind effect simply throwing the air everywhere and retaining it, this is what we need to avoid – Right-hand image needs to be avoided.

We managed to fend off the inevitable spread for 4 days using this practice. We all live together hence I use the word inevitable. However, in a school or office environment where people have shorter interactions, the above process can be VERY effective. 

If we approach this by believing everyone is infected, and secondly, imagining the virus as smoke, how can we avoid breathing in that smoke, and expelling it as quickly as it emits?

Holding fire doors open is a fire risk, this is common knowledge and something we all try to avoid, albeit in the wrong way. Triangular bits of wood are used, wedges I believe people call them, a swear word to me. Fireco products, Dorgard and Freedor, a retainer and door closer that can legally hold open a fire door, and close if the fire alarm activates are perfect products to help with fresh air inlets and exhausts for your building.

To finish my article, eventually we caught the dreaded virus, our entire family felt poorly, starting with dizziness. We all got retested, we were all now positive. We could only describe the feeling of flu for the majority of the illness, with severe dizziness and fatigue. The last symptom was the lack of taste, which whilst a strange sensation at first, became very depressing but finally cleared up over two weeks. Something I want to mention is at NO POINT did we have a temperature. When considering your return to work process, please please do not rely solely on reading temperatures, please enforce sanitising, with a product like Germgard. Please ensure staff wear face masks and please do not overlook the inexpensive solution of fresh air, it’s so important. If I hadn’t practiced this at home, we would have all become ill much sooner and not have been able to stagger the disease over the family and look after one another. 

We were very fortunate to stay out of hospital, and my heart goes out to people who have had a far worse experience. Stay safe. Please like and share, this is one thing we do want to go viral.

James Wheeler – Chief Commerical Officer l Fireco Ltd

Do your employees feel safe at your premises?

Do your employees feel safe at your premises?

The impact of the virus on society

Since the beginning of the pandemic, scientists from all over the world have been researching the symptoms, transmission and prevention methods to help us better understand the virus.

In the meantime, we have all been following the ‘Hands, Face, Space’ campaign promoted by the Government in order to help keep everyone safe. With the belief that the best way to reduce the spread of the virus is to keep your hands clean and sanitised, wear a face mask in public and maintain a safe distance between yourself and others.

This year, we have gained a much higher awareness of the things we touch, whether it’s a shopping trolley, money or a door handle. We have also learned to risk assess our everyday surroundings, and social distancing and wearing a mask has become a habit for many.

However, day-to-day life has and will continue to be impacted by the virus. Returning to work, mixing with crowds or even seeing friends can seem daunting for those who have spent most of the year isolating. This raises the question – are employers and other establishments doing enough to support their employees and customers?

Are employers doing enough to keep the work environment safe?

To help you make your business a safe environment for employees, The Governments Health & Safety Executive (HSE) devised a Coronavirus Risk Assessment which identifies potential safety problems arising due to the pandemic and how they can be overcome.

One point included is “Mental health and wellbeing affected through isolation or anxiety about coronavirus”. Being isolated from lockdown and social distancing can heighten feelings of anxiety about going back to ‘normal’. Walking into a building after a few weeks or months and seeing nothing has changed can be very daunting for employees.

Before the first national lockdown ended, a study carried out by CIPD on 1000 working adults revealed that 44% of them were anxious about returning to work due to the potential risk of catching the virus.

Since then, a study carried out by Slater and Gordon, employment law specialists, uncovered that 46% of key workers have whistle blown on their employers for unsafe practices during the pandemic. With concerns ranging from lack of PPE, no social distancing measures in place or people being forced to return to work even if they are classed as vulnerable.

With the news that local councils will have the power to close businesses if they are not COVID-secure, it is vital to ensure your employees feel safe at work. These powers include an order for immediate action to be taken, closures for up to a week and fines if no action is taken.

What measures can be put in place to make a COVID-secure environment?

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Fireco has been helping many businesses stay safe, reduce cross-contamination and improve hygiene with our simple germ control solutions.

Our Germgard Smart Sanitising Station is a portable hygiene stand that encourages the use of hand sanitiser to all building users. It uses an infrared sensor and digital signage to capture the attention of the passer-by and ask them to sanitise their hands, which in turn will reduce cross-contamination on surfaces.

The digital signage is customisable and can be used as a building management tool, for example, you can advise staff to use your one-way system or to take their temperature when signing in.

The Germgard station is a portable device, so you can move it to the location that best suits your building, all it needs is a plug socket nearby.

Germgard helps you provide visual evidence that your company is taking adequate measures to keep your premises COVID-secure and will reassure your employees that they are safe in their work environment.

For more information about Germgard or other ways we can help with your COVID-secure strategy, visit our website www.fireco.uk or call us on 01273 320650.

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