Top 10 fire safety tips for small businesses

Every year, there are thousands of fires reported in offices across the country and the vast majority of these fires could have been prevented if the right precautions were taken.

Here, we’ll highlight the 10 fire safety tips all small business owners should be focusing on if they hope to keep their company fire-free and their employees safe and sated.

1. Be prepared

In the workplace, when you have so many moving components and individuals to corral, having a plan of action isn’t just vital, it’s necessary by law.

Your plan should detail the fire protocols that all employees must follow if they discover a fire. This includes evacuation procedures, warning systems, a designated assembly point and, in larger buildings, designated fire escapes for each team.

2. Fire detection

Another legal business requirement for businesses, having a fire detection alarm installed should be the bare minimum for any business and all employees should also be schooled in how to use them.

Alarms should also be checked regularly, as an average smoke alarm will need to be replaced every decade. The batteries, meanwhile, should be changed at least annually.

3. Fire wardens

Every workplace should have a dedicated fire warden (or fire prevention officer) who is in charge of the fire procedures. Not only does it help for the higher-ups to delegate these responsibilities.

But this means there is one person, or a group of people, who will always know the right way to react if the worst should happen. All fire wardens should be briefed by local fire authorities on best practice, and should also receive practical fire-fighting training.

4. Maintenance

All machines that generate or consume a lot of energy should be maintained regularly and updated whenever possible to prevent potential fire hazards.

5. Know your extinguishers

Not only the fire wardens but everyone in the office should be aware of both where the fire extinguishers are located and how to use them.

Also, make sure that the fire extinguishers you’re using are those most suitable for the type of fire your business is at greatest risk of succumbing to.

For example, a carbon dioxide extinguisher will be suitable for liquid and electrical fires, a foam extinguisher will be suitable for solid material fires and a powder extinguisher will be suitable for gas fires.

6. Escape routes

Fire escape options should be well signposted and clearly visible. This means they should also be well lit by emergency lighting at every door and corridor on every level of the building in case of a fire during the night. Employers and building managers should make sure that escape routes have been discussed with all employees.

7. Breathing room

One of the most common causes of fire in a business environment, where there are perhaps hundreds of machines being used every day, is a lack of circulation. Make sure there is adequate space around all appliances that ‘run hot’ and unplug everything you can at the end of a workday.

8. Employee training

It should go without training that all employees should be trained in basic fire safety and should also be informed who the wardens are, where the escape routes are located and what the procedures are.

Regular fire drills should also be a key part of any employee fire training regime. At least once a year if possible, regardless of the size of the business.

9. Safety signs

All fire safety signs should be clear and easily readable, even for those whose first language is not English. This means also installing signs with pictures that can be understood at a glance.

10. Housekeeping

Finally, perhaps the most powerful thing you can do to promote fire safety is to practice it yourself and extol the virtues of best practice.

Make sure all flammable materials are disposed of as soon as possible, keep doors closed when not in use, store electric gear properly and don’t overload sockets. In essence, fire safety is all about common sense. We might not all have it, but we can certainly try.