With the majority of the population currently at home, and many buildings vacant, ensuring your property is kept safe during the COVID-19 lockdown period will be of great concern for those responsible for commercial property.
Here are our top maintenance risks to be aware of, and steps to take to ensure your vacant building remains future proof during this time.
There is greater risk of legionella multiplying in static water systems at room temperatures. Without weekly flushing through of pipes, the systems will need to be sterilised before normal use resumes. Showers and spray systems are at particularly high risk of legionella. You should seek assistance if you have a cooling tower, as if these are not attended to daily by a competent person they will need to be shut down. Read more here.
Lifts and lifting devices
Lifts are normally subject to Thorough Examinations (insurance inspections) under LOLER every 6 months. The HSE have confirmed that there is no relaxation for this, therefore if your last examination was over six months ago you may not be able to use the lift until examined and deemed safe for use by your nominated engineering inspectorate. You may also want to reconsider the use of lifts in lightly occupied buildings due to the potential slower response from the lift breakdown services and issues in rescue services being able to access the property. Read more here.
Heating and cooling systems
Heating and cooling systems need to be examined and kept in good working order. For heating systems and chillers, you will need to check your Written Scheme of Examination and your records to see if they are still covered by the last inspection. If not, you will need to seek advice on how to safely recommission it. Read more here.
Gas appliances have a minimum standard of safety requiring regular inspections and tests. Check the status of these and if the last examination was more than 12 months ago, the system will need to be isolated until inspected by a Gas Safe qualified person. Read more here.
In addition to turning off lighting and appliances you do not need, you may wish to consider a full ‘mothballing’ of your building services in line with B&ES SFG30 and/or CIBSE Guide M, or perhaps reducing consumption. Reducing consumption can be done by lowering the heating setpoints via the automatic controls and raising the setpoints for cooling as well as widening dead bands. Ventilation rates can also be cut back if you have variable speed drives fitted. This generally all needs technical assistance.
Ensure your fire systems are working. Fire alarms are more important than ever where large buildings are sparsely populated. You should continue with any weekly tests and ensure an attendance register and fire marshal remains in place.
If your maintenance company are on a skeleton staff and unable to test these, we suggest issuing torches to all building occupants if continued occupation is vital. This should be done in conjunction with a risk assessment.
Double check with all your service providers what their service levels are during this period and confirm that any remote monitoring is unaffected.
When all this is over we recommend a full maintenance and statutory test and inspection audit to check for backlog maintenance and safety issues and to identify where you may have paid for a service you have not received.
We hope you find this information beneficial, you can download our pdf guide here.