As small businesses develop employee safety and risk management plans, fire safety should be one of the first topics that gets addressed. Like their larger counterparts, small businesses have to evaluate their fire prevention and safety programs, reduce the risk as much as possible, and plan an effective response if a fire breaks out.
In most cases, your property insurance company and local fire department will offer a number of resources to help you evaluate the potential risks in your company's facilities, and offer advice about the most effective ways to reduce potential dangers. Depending on your industry, these may involve improving materials storage and handing, while evaluating the location of equipment in your workplace.
A detailed fire safety inspection will also include safety equipment, such smoke detectors, extinguishers and perhaps sprinklers, designed to reduce the severity of a fire while improving the ability of employees to leave the building safely.
Fire prevention and safety inspections will also check or verify whether:
- Your facilities comply with local fire regulations and building codes
- Electrical equipment shows any signs of worn cords, excessive operating temperatures, or other potential hazards.
- Any materials that can produce fire or flammable vapors are stored in appropriate containers or cabinets.
- Your company follows safe cleanup practices to make sure papers, wooden pallets, sawdust and other potentially flammable materials don't pile up and present hazards.
Effective fire prevention practices should be backed up by safety equipment designed to help employees evacuate your workspace and to extinguish a fire quickly. Commercial smoke detectors, for example, should sound an audible alarm and trigger strobe lighting, and should be connected to a central monitoring service so fire authorities can be notified quickly.
Fire extinguishers can also provide a critical delay in the severity of the emerging fire. Be sure fire extinguishers are placed in several easily accessible locations, and are matched to the type of fire most likely to occur in a specific area.
Depending on the size of your facility and the materials you handle, automatic sprinklers can be another effective defensive measure against fire risks. You should enlist professional assistance with the design, installation and maintenance of an automatic sprinkler system.
In case a fire breaks out, it's also important to develop an evacuation plan for your facility. Your workplace should also have several potential fire exits, for example, with exit being marked with an illuminated exit sign. Your evacuation plan should also include a designated meeting place so you can make sure everyone has left the workplace safely.