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Fire safety tips for small businesses

Most small business owners understand the relevance of fire safety, but not all of them bother doing fire safety risk assessments every year, as they are supposed to. After all, how likely is it that: a) someone from the HSE will bother performing a random spot check, or b) there is a fire.

The risk is probably low on both counts, unless you manufacture fireworks for a living or work in a similar high-risk industry, but this doesn’t mean you should forget about fire safety. If something goes wrong and there is a serious fire, do you really want to be responsible for a death on the premises?

There is legislation in place to ensure that small businesses meet their requirements for health and safety, even if not all of them bother to look for the relevant information. The first thing you should do is download the information, so you know exactly what you are supposed to do to be legal. Keep this information in a file and assign an employee to be responsible for all health and safety within the workplace. This would normally be an office manager’s job, but if you don’t have one, task someone else with the responsibility and make sure they have the resources they need. Making sure your business has a proper fire exit, as well as being up to date electrically (such as having an EICR Certificate) is also important tasks the owners should handle!

Draw Up a Fire Safety Policy

The first step when addressing fire safety in the workplace is to draw up a fire safety policy. This should include everything related to fire safety, from switching off computers at the end of the working day, to restricting cigarette smoking to designated areas outside. Once you have drafted a fire safety policy, circulate it to every employee and ask them to sign to say they have received it.

Perform a Fire Safety Risk Assessment

Perform a fire safety risk assessment so you can see if there are any areas you need to address. For example, if you collect waste paper for recycling purposes, where do you store it? If the answer is in the corner of a store room, is this a safe place? Other problem areas may include storing boxes and equipment on a fire escape route, or not having smoke alarms fitted.

Provide Fire Safety Equipment

Smoke alarms are vital. Make sure these are mains operated smoke alarms, so they don’t need batteries replacing. It is also advisable to have a sprinkler and fire alarm system in place, as this will dampen down a fire if the worst does happen. You should also have fire extinguishers in key locations. These will need to be serviced at least once a year. Kitchen areas should have a fire blanket, and a small fire extinguisher.

Avoid Dangerous Behaviour in the Workplace

Discourage any risky behaviour in the workplace, such as smoking in banned locations or discarding used cigarette butts in waste bins.

If you need help with your fire safety policies, call in a professional H&S consultant to offer expert guidance on where you can make important safety improvements.