fire safety for small businesses

Just because your business is small, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t at risk from fire. The degree of risk is obviously determined by the nature of your workplace, but a fire can destroy a premises within minutes and has the potential to kill or injure anyone who is unable to escape in time.

With all of the difficulties presented by the pandemic, including the fact that your premises may have been closed for periods of time, it’s likely that fire safety will have fallen down the list of things you need to think about. But it’s important to make sure your premises is fully compliant, to protect the people who are in it, the property itself and its contents, and in some cases even the future of your entire business. So what are some of the priorities you need to think about?

1. When did you last do a fire risk assessment?

If fire safety has slipped down the agenda, a good starting place is to carry out a risk assessment to review whether anything has changed and to refresh your action plan. If your business has 5 or more people you will need to keep a written record of your assessment. Make sure that you still have all the necessary fire equipment in place and consider whether covid compliance measures have added any additional risks. Have there been any changes to staff and if so, is there any need arising to do some extra training so people know about the fire risks, how to spot hazards and what to do if there was a fire? Review whether all necessary signage is on display and up to date too.

2. How long has it been since fire equipment was last serviced?

It’s really important that you (or the person responsible for fire safety in your business) are carrying out regular checks of your fire equipment. As well as carrying out the routine visual inspections on the equipment you have, don’t forget that some of it must be serviced too. Equipment such as fire extinguishers, alarms and sprinklers will need to be inspected by a qualified person so don’t forget to take a look at when that was last done and arrange for someone to come along if it has fallen out of date.

3. Make sure staff know how to use fire extinguishers

In an emergency situation, the ability to think clearly is compromised. In those circumstances, are you sure that you, or your employees, would know how to use a fire extinguisher correctly? It’s worth familiarising yourself and others with how they work in case the time comes when you actually need to use one.

4. Are escape routes clear?

It’s really important that walkways and emergency exits remain clear at all times. If your housekeeping standards have slipped a bit, it’s time to address that. Not only will that enable people to get out of the building quickly if they had to but it also means you’re potentially removing waste that could go on to fuel a fire.

5. Be aware of wiring and electricals

Problems with wiring and electrical equipment malfunctions can cause fires. It’s really important to note any issues that you spot and then act accordingly. That could include being aware of equipment that’s becoming excessively warm or electrical leads that might look damaged in some way. Also be aware of the need to give appliances sufficient space so cooling air can circulate around them, and keep them away from anything that’s highly combustible.

6. Check if there are any hazards outside

Arson is a real problem for businesses of all sizes. Be very careful about leaving anything outside close to your building, particularly rubbish and bins, as they can provide an easy target for arsonists looking for something to set alight. If it’s not practical to store the bins in a secure place then it could be worth investigating other options like lockable bins.

Get in touch if you need some help

Don’t make the mistake of assuming fire safety only applies to larger companies or is solely the responsibility of the building owner if you’re renting the premises. As an employer, you must make sure you are complying with fire safety obligations  – if you are unsure what you need to do then please do get in touch with us.