In 2014, a huge 22,000 fires occurred in non-domestic workplace environments. But, as there are so many different causes of workplace fires such as faulty electronics, negligence or even arson, coming up with a foolproof strategy to avoid fires can be tricky.

Regardless of your workplace size or how many employees you have, fire safety should always be a top priority. Fires will not only destroy buildings but can claim lives, something everyone will naturally want to avoid.

Generally, start-up businesses tend to be small and will likely operate from a confined space, to begin with. Whilst this is convenient and economical in some cases, it can, in fact, pose a huge risk with regard to fire as it’s unlikely that such a small area will have the appropriate facilities and levels of safety to handle a workplace fire.

So, if you’re the owner of a small start-up business and haven’t yet implemented proper fire safety strategies for your building and employees, here are some smart fire tips to ensure you’re as protected as possible.

Keep organised

One of the worst things in the event of a fire is clutter. The last thing you want is for you and your employees to be stumbling around without a clear exit to escape.

You never know when a fire may arise, so ensuring your entire workplace is tidy and organized at all times is essential. If this means rounding up your employees and getting them to spend part of their day clearing away clutter, so be it! It’s crucial everyone is able to get to the chosen exit as quickly as possible, so a clear passage must be available.

Plan a sensible exit route

If no one knows what to do or where to go in the event of a fire, carnage could arise. To prepare yourselves properly, you must educate your employees about the importance of fire safety, and come up with a planned exit route that’s easy to access and simple to remember.

To keep your employees aware and ensure they don’t get complacent, conducting random fire drills without warning is a great way to assess everyone’s behavior and see whether your planned exit route is effective.

Smoke alarms and sprinklers

Most people think a smoke alarm is all you need for a fire, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Yes, having smoke alarms installed all over your workplace building is crucial, but having a sprinkler system set to react as soon as smoke is detected by the alarms could put an end to the fire before it gets out of hand.

But, for sprinklers to be effective and reliable, they must be made from corrosion-resistant piping to avoid rusting and deterioration. So, if you’re using galvanized steel piping in your sprinkler system (or if you haven’t got any sprinklers at all!), it’s time for an upgrade.

Fire extinguishers

Whilst the majority of today’s workplaces have fire extinguishers scattered around, it’s highly unlikely every single person in the building would know how to use one in an emergency situation. In fact, if you asked your employees right now ‘who knows how to use a fire extinguisher?’, you’d be surprised at the amount who probably don’t have a clue!

Having fire extinguishers is great, but can be completely counter-productive if you don’t know what to do with them. So, educate yourself and ensure you educate your employees too so if a fire were to suddenly break out, there won’t be any confusion surrounding fire extinguisher use.

Have designated smoking areas

As it’s now prohibited to smoke indoors almost everywhere, most of us don’t take the dangers of cigarettes seriously as they’re generally smoked outdoors in the open air.

But if your designated smoking area is too close to your workplace or, if you don’t even have an assigned smoking area, ensure your chosen area is far away from any hazardous or flammable materials. And, it goes without saying, ensure every single cigarette butt has been properly extinguished before you or your employees come back inside.

No one wants to be a victim of a fire, especially in the workplace where you’ll undoubtedly be surrounded by lots of other scared people. But, as the business owner, it’s your responsibility to put fire safety strategies in place not only for your employees but for yourself too. Organization and education are key here, so if you simply make sure your staff are up-to-date with your exit strategy and keep the place tidy, handling a fire will become much smoother.

Lydia Scott is an office manager for a small manufacturing operation. She also enjoys writing about what she has learned in order to help others, and posts on various business and startup blogs.

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