Minimising COVID-19 cross-contamination, whilst maintaining fire safety standards

Lauren Lee

Lauren Lee
Senior Consultant, Assurity Consulting
4th May 2020

Office supplies such as keyboards, telephones and printer/copiers are most probably the first to spring to mind when identifying possible touch points in the workplace. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, it was commonly reported that over 10 million bacteria can live on your desk alone.

Studies have shown that COVID-19 can survive on metal, plastic and glass hardware for several days, and we are already familiar with sights of people using elbows to open doors.

Most businesses have a stringent cleaning regime in place, however there are only so many times that a building can be cleaned throughout a working day. My concern is that we will now start to see an increase in fire doors being propped open or removed entirely to avoid staff touching door handles and push plates.

Fire doors need to be in place to reduce travel distances, minimise fire and smoke spread and maintain compartmentation within the building and office areas as per your fire strategy document. The installation of automatic door holding devices, such as magnetic devices, which are connected to the fire alarm could be considered, however this may have a large cost incurred and therefore may not be so practical as this stage.

An alternative option would be to install acoustic fire door retainers which can be installed directly to the door and operate on sound (i.e. the fire alarm activating). These could be located to areas of high traffic, and re-located as and when the occupancy changes etc. Again, these can be purchased in each stage of occupancy to stagger costs. Of course, it is important to maintain testing and servicing of these systems to make sure the devices are operating effectively.

Any other areas which are of lesser traffic could then have wall mounted/stand mounted antibacterial hand gel, similar to that of a hospital. Signage could also be displayed to remind staff to use this after touching the door handle. Who knows if there will ever be a ‘normal’ to return to? However, as business’ priorities shift, we must be careful not to compromise fire safety standards.