Fire safety is the responsibility of a small business owner. Under the Canada Labour Code, it is the employer’s duty to maintain a safe and healthy work environment. This includes following provincial and federal safety codes, taking preventative measures, and planning emergency evacuations. If you fail to keep your workplace up to safety standards, and lack of maintenance is cited as the cause of a fire, your insurance claim can be rejected. If your place of business is hit by fire, insurance may take care of the cleanup and renovations, but it is hard to make up for down time, lost sales, and customers who permanently move on to other businesses. Fire safety is crucial for the well-being of your employees and the health of your business.
Fire Prevention in the Workplace
Prevention is the best defense against fire. As a small business owner, there are several things you can do to reduce the risk of fire.
- Check for wiring faults and other risks of electrical fires. Inspect electrical cords for cracks in the protective coating, and replace cords that are damaged in any way. Don’t overload outlets. Avoid running cords under carpets or other traffic areas. Cords can be easily damaged by the day-to-day weight and impact of foot traffic.
- Clean up combustible waste products. Pay special attention to flammable materials, and dispose of them following safety guidelines. Place bins for recycled paper clear of heat-generating machines such as copiers. Paper and wood scraps are combustible materials that feed fires and help them grow.
- Follow manufacturer’s guidelines regarding the placement of your office equipment. Don’t try to cut corners to save space; allow adequate clearance for ventilation of any equipment that produces heat.
Fire Preparedness in the Workplace
Under the umbrella of the Canadian Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, Canadian Fire Safety Regulations state that employers of more than 50 staff members must develop an emergency evacuation plan. Regardless of how many employees you have, preparedness is the best way to save lives and property. In the event of fire, your employees must be able to get out of the building quickly. Alarm systems provide the first alert, and fire and smoke alarms must be regularly inspected to ensure they’re working properly. Routinely test fire extinguishers for readiness, and keep exits and stairways free of obstructions. Through education, posted information, and exit drills, make sure your employees are clear on the evacuation process.
Fire Safety and End-of-Day Security
Fire safety is important even after you shut down your business for the day. Instruct your employees to turn off electrical equipment at the end of the business day, and assign someone to make a sweep of the workplace as a final check.Unfortunately, many workplace fires are started intentionally. To protect your small business from arson, pay attention to your security measures.
- Lock up securely at the end of the day. This includes doors, windows, skylights, and any other points of access.
- Encourage your staff to report any suspicious behavior or unexpected visitors.
- Keep your building well-lit indoors and outdoors to make your business less appealing to arsonists.