5 tips to fireproof your small business

Businesses ignore fire safety and preparation to their peril.

The key to fire safety is being prepared. Everyone in the workplace should understand what risks there are, what to do to minimise them and what to do in the event of a fire emergency.

These five tips will help fireproof your small business:

1. Reduce fire hazards: Identifying hazards in the workplace is the obvious place to start. This means looking at: a) the ways that a fire could ignite, b) what materials are flammable, and c) how a fire might spread. Firstly, it is critical that all hazardous materials are appropriately stored, safely transported and clearly signposted. (Having proper safety cabinets to store flammable material and to store corrosives is essential.) Ensure there is no build up of flammable materials, such as packaging or other waste (think old cardboard boxes and sawdust). As well, all equipment should be properly maintained to prevent overheating or potential sparks.

2. Develop an emergency plan: People first! This is essential to ensure that if a fire does break out, no one is injured. An emergency-management plan should include what to do in case of a fire, the method to keep track of who is in the building at all times, and evacuation-meeting points and routes. Appoint fire safety officers and ensure that all staff are aware of the plan and are trained in how to action it. (State Government fire bodies will have more information, specific to your region.)  

3. Invest in quality fire-fighting equipment: Ensure you have the appropriate fire alarms, fire extinguishers and fire blankets on site and that they are in clear view with easy access. A consultation with your local fire authority or equipment suppliers will help determine the correct fire equipment for your various work areas. It’s also important to regularly test and maintain fire-fighting equipment.

4. Train your staff: There is no point developing a fire plan if no one knows about it and no point having fire-fighting equipment if staff don’t know how to use it. Personnel who know how to use this equipment can potentially save your business (and possibly lives) by extinguishing or controlling a fire before it takes hold. There are fire safety training programs available through several providers.

5. Adequate insurance cover & data backup: Having the right amount of insurance and valuing your assets properly means that even if a fire does damage your business, there is capacity to rebuild. Many small businesses are underinsured and do not survive fire emergencies. Of course, another angle here is to ensure proper data back-up: being able to recover your vital data gives your business a red-hot chance at continuing operations, even if it’s not from your normal premises.

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Written by Ovesco, suppliers of transportation and industrial hardware and fasteners to the transportation, manufacturing and mining industries.