For many small and medium businesses the thought of a fire racing through the office causing a substantial loss of physical assets or data would be devastating. At worst, the loss could mean the end for many companies; at best it’s a severe inconvenience that could lead to greater financial losses arising from an inability to conduct daily business. However, although we expend a lot of effort in building and maintaining our businesses many of us don’t give fire prevention the proper consideration that it deserves, or even needs.
According to statistics from the Arson Prevention Bureau there are 360 business and public buildings damaged or destroyed by arson every week in the UK. That’s 18,720 every year, at a cost to the British economy of £2.8 billion. Although good insurance can mitigate some of the financial impact of a fire in the workplace there’s no substitute for fire prevention procedures.
The following tips should help you ensure that your business is at the lowest risk of fire possible.
- Fire Risk Assessments – conducting a good fire risk assessment may be exactly the step that you need to start thinking about fire safety, both for your employees and for your business assets. A fire risk assessment will identify any potential causes of fire, such as erratic wiring, hazardous chemicals, cooking areas and heating appliances.
- Understanding the human impact – fire also has a large human element to it also, with many fires being started as a result of human error, misjudgement or negligence. Therefore your fire risk assessment should acknowledge security requirements to prevent arson, adequate facilities in smoking areas and also that any combustible materials are safely stored away from ignition sources. Reducing office clutter and paperwork with adequate office cupboards and storage can really help to reduce the risk of fire.
- Prepare for any eventuality – should a fire occur, loss of valuable data or assets will be one of the most damaging effects to your business. Take precaution against this by locking valuable items away within a fireproof safe. Not only will this protect against fire, but potential save those same assets against potential burglary.
- Fire extinguishers – not just for propping doors open, fire extinguishers need to reflect the nature of your business. Fire extinguishers come in four flavours: powder, foam, water and carbon dioxide. Each of these is used for a specific type of fire, and your fire risk assessment will determine the most likely type of fire for your business. Fire extinguishers need training, so ensure that your training is up to date and that your fire extinguishers are checked regularly.
- Educate – people move on, it’s a fact of working life, and they take their knowledge with them. Ensure that you have regular sessions where you educate your staff on fire prevention and that you maintain any lost knowledge with additional training, such as fire extinguisher use. Run regular drills and have fire wardens. It doesn’t really matter how large or small your business is, a good fire warden is always valuable. Making it somebody’s responsibility to be aware of fire prevention means that it will never be neglected.
Preventing against fire doesn’t only make good common sense, it makes good commercial sense.