Small businesses face a number of risks, and they vary based on the type of small business you operate. While a bakery owner may be wearier of cows falling through the ceiling, a hairdresser would likely worry more about burning a client’s hair off.
If you’re a contractor or skilled tradesperson, one of the risks you should be concerned about is fire. Working with heavy machinery, tools and materials such as metal or wood can increase the chances of a fire breaking out in your workspace. Implementing strong safety measures and preparing yourself and your staff on what to do if a fire breaks out are important steps in managing this risk. Below you’ll find some tips and best practices that will hopefully spark some fire prevention ideas for your small business.
Fire prevention for your small business
Whether you’re a contractor, electrician, woodworker or another skilled tradesperson, you could be at risk for fire in your small business. Managing this risk typically consists of two main objectives: prevention and preparedness. The best practice is to do everything you can to avoid a fire, but it’s also good sense to have a plan in place in case one occurs. You simply never know what could happen, and you don’t want to get caught in an emergency situation unprepared.
General fire prevention tips:
- Don’t plug several power cords into one outlet, and never break off the third prong on a plug. If it does break off, make sure it’s replaced and the third prong is properly grounded.
- Never use extension cords as a permanent solution. They’re designed to be used to temporarily supply power to an area that doesn’t have an outlet.
- Store your power cords away from heat, water and oil, as they can damage. Never let vehicles pass over unprotected power cords.
- Regularly inspect your tools, power cords and electrical fittings for damage or wear prior to each use. If you discover an issue during the inspection, repair or replace the damaged equipment before operating it again.
- Clean your equipment well, and clean it often. Regular cleaning is one of the best ways to keep air flowing and heat dissipating.
- Don’t use nails or staples to secure power cords to walls and floors, as they can damage the cord and cause fire or shock hazards. Use tape when securing cords when necessary.
- When operating any electrical equipment, always double-check that it’s rated for the level of amperage or wattage that you’re using.
- Always use the correct fuse size. Don’t replace a fuse with a larger one because this can cause excessive currents in the wiring, which could start a fire.
- Unusually warm or hot outlets could be caused by unsafe wiring conditions. If you discover one, unplug any cords and don’t use it again until a qualified electrician has done an inspection of the wiring.
- Fire suppression systems and portable fire extinguishers are the most important tools in combating a fire when it breaks out. Make sure you and your employees understand how your fire suppression system works, and where all the extinguishers are located and how to operate them. Regular maintenance is also important to ensure that your suppression systems and extinguishers will operate in the event of a fire. After shutting down machines or equipment for the night, monitor them for about 15 to 20 minutes to ensure they have cooled down properly.
- Staircases and fire brigade access routes should always be clear and never used for storage or parking. Do not prop or wedge open fire doors. These doors are designed to prevent the spread of fire between building areas.
- “No smoking” rules must be enforced in areas exposed to fire and in the vicinity of hazardous operations.
Tips to help you and your employees prepare for a fire
Fires are one of those situations that you may think will never happen, but when it does, you’ll want to be prepared. The risk of a fire is higher in certain industries than in others, but every small business owner should have an emergency plan in place in the event that a fire breaks out. After all, the safety of you and your employees is a top priority. Here are some of the things you can do to prepare for a fire-related emergency:
Ask the experts: When you begin developing your fire evacuation plans, reach out to your local fire department. They are a great resource and likely already have some sort of plan or guideline available that you can build off of for your own needs.
Choose wisely: When mapping out your evacuation points and routes, keep in mind these tips:
- There should be multiple routes to avoid congestion.
- Assembly points should be in low traffic areas of the building.
- Outdoor assembly points should be far enough away from the building.
Make it obvious: Every exit point should have a sign alerting people to the evacuation route for that particular area.
Keep everyone in the loop: If you update, modify or remove any fire evacuation routes, you must let your employees know.
Stay organized: Create a list of all your employees, and take note of those who are pregnant, have recently undergone an operation or have disabilities, as they may need assistance during the evacuation process.
Special events: If there’s an event taking place in your business’ neighbourhood that requires streets to close, or increases foot traffic (such as a parade or marathon), be sure to re-evaluate your assembly points and evacuation procedures.
Don’t get caught with your pants down—make sure you’re prepared in the event that a fire ever breaks out at your small business. If you’re a TruShield customer looking for more information on how to better prevent fires at your business, or how to prepare yourself and your staff in the event that one does occur, try our Risk Management Assist service. You have unlimited telephone access to our team of Risk Services specialists who have extensive knowledge on how to mitigate the risk of fire, and other risks that may affect your small business.
This blog is provided for information only and is not a substitute for professional advice. We make no representations or warranties regarding the accuracy or completeness of the information and will not be responsible for any loss arising out of reliance on the information.