A Guide to Small Business Fire Risk Assessment

 Alice Johnson
  Jun 14, 2019

Did you know that office fires account for $112 million of property damage each year?

What's more, one in four businesses does not reopen after a major disaster.

Fires are a tangible threat to small businesses, especially because the majority happen during business hours. Keeping your commercial property secure is essential for safeguarding against those unexpected flames.


What can you do to minimize your office's risk of fire? One thing you can do is to perform a regular small business fire risk assessment. In fact, this should be a routine part of your company's safety operations.

In this post, we discuss what you can do to guarantee a fireproof workplace. Keep reading for your ultimate guide!

What is a Fire Risk Assessment?

Fire poses a very real threat to structures of any kind. While office fires aren't occurring as much as they used to, they still can happen due to chemical, structural, and mechanical hazards.

A fire risk assessment is designed to evaluate a building for anything that could lead to a fire. A small business fire risk assessment looks specifically at a commercial building's fire hazards.

Your district may legally require you to perform a fire risk assessment of your commercial property.

Risk assessments also analyze the consequences of a potential fire. Many pave the way for creating detailed evacuation plans all employees can reference in case of a fire. Most also inspect fire escapes, if these exist.

If a fire risk assessment reveals any hazards, it's important to remove these entirely or limit them in some way.

You can perform a fire risk assessment of your small business on your own if you refer to the checklist below. Most small businesses do not manage large premises, and many have fewer than five employees.

However, if you don't feel competent in taking these steps, you can always hire professionals to do so.

Fire Risk Assessment Checklist

Small businesses should keep this fire risk assessment checklist in mind as they review their properties.

Keep in mind that this checklist should be dynamic! This means that it should adapt according to your business size, building age, and industry.

1. Know Your Office's Fire Hazards

This is the most important step in your fire risk assessment! Take the time to fully inspect your office for fire hazards and document what you discover.

You may be thinking at this point: what exactly is a fire hazard?

This is a good question! While fire hazards are anything that could lead to wild flames, they aren't always obvious. Plus, the list of possible fire hazards can be endless.

For now, here are some common fire hazards that appear in the workplace.

  • Any activities that involve extreme heat, including welding, grinding and cutting.
  • Industrial ovens, cooktops, and stoves.
  • Anything that involves flammable liquids, including paints and aerosols.
  • Boilers and hot water heaters, which most offices have.
  • Electrical equipment, including wiring and transformers.
  • Flammable gases or hydraulic fluids that can combust.

Some of the items on this list aren't necessarily hazardous by themselves. For example, if it is properly installed, most electrical equipment is safe on-site.

However, broken safety locks and poor installation of such equipment can lead to fire hazards. The same goes for improper handling of flammable fluids and hot items.

Remember what fire needs to exist: fuel, oxygen, and ignition. Keep these three things in mind as you are identifying and evaluating fire hazards.

2. Figure Out Who Is At Risk

Fire risk assessments aren't just about identifying fire hazards. In most cases, office fires occur during business hours. If a fire does happen, you'll have to have a plan in place for getting people out safely.

That's what this step is all about: figuring out who is at risk in case a fire occurs.

In most cases, the people at risk in case of a fire our employees. But don't forget to account for any visitors, customers, or contractors who may be on site. The same goes for anybody else who may be working in the building itself, including adjacent businesses.

If any of these individuals are elderly or disabled, you may need to have a conversation with them about a specific evacuation plan.

Lastly, identify where these people are likely to be when a fire happens. Account for office space, restrooms, meeting rooms, and retail areas.

3. Remove and Reduce Hazards

Take a close look at the fire hazards you've identified. It's time to get rid of them to create a fireproof workplace!

Some of these, like electrical equipment, can't be removed. But you can reduce their hazard potential by putting some fire prevention measures in place.

Start by making sure all safety locks are in place on relevant equipment, especially electrical machinery. Hire an electrician to inspect this equipment, if necessary.

Identify any work activities that could lead to a fire, such as welding or working with flammable liquids. Do you have safety measures in place for these activities? Most importantly, are employees aware of them?

In some cases, you may be able to get rid of any obvious fire hazards. You may replace a faulty boiler, for example, or come up with a safe way to stow combustible materials.

4. Inspect Fire Alarms and Sprinkler Systems

Most commercial properties have fire alarms in place. Check to make sure these are functioning. Because many fire alarms are battery powered, it's important to do this regularly.

Your office may also have a sprinkler system. These systems trigger the release of water from designated spouts in case a fire occurs. Inspect your building's sprinkler system, if applicable, and identify any malfunction.

Offices in older buildings may not have as many fire alarms as you need to stay safe. Ideally, every room should have a functioning alarm installed.

5. Clarify Your Evacuation Plan

Your analysis of your company's premises and fire hazards can help you create an evacuation plan. At the end of the day, risk assessments are designed to keep everyone safe!

Check to see if your office building has any fire escapes or exits in place. Make sure these offer good means of escape. Some fire escapes can be rather rickety, especially those attached to older buildings.

Identify a safe way for all building occupants to exit in case of a fire. Create a list of safety measures people can take if a fire occurs during business hours.

Make this plan available to all employees at all times.

Invest in Fire Protection Services

Small business owners have the option to invest in fire protection services.

Fire protection professionals can keep your commercial property fireproof by servicing fire alarm and sprinkler systems. They can also perform inspections and repairs of relevant systems.

Working with fire protection professionals can also give you peace of mind in case of an emergency. Most provide emergency services and safety monitoring. Learn more here.

How do you know if fire protection services are right for you?

Many business owners do not feel confident in their ability to identify and monitor fire hazards. You may also run your business out of a relatively old structure and manage a large group of employees. Or, your office building may be complex, with lots of exits and complicated hallways.

If you're feeling wary about your building's fire hazards in any way, it's time to call the professionals. Similarly, if you manage a fairly large property, fire protection services can be a valuable investment.

How Often Should I Perform a Fire Risk Assessment?

This fire risk assessment can help all business owners monitor or eliminate fire hazards. It can be vital for refining an evacuation plan and keeping your employees safe at all times.

What's more, it can clue you into whether or not you need fire protection services for your business!

But when should you perform this comprehensive fire risk assessment?

This depends on the age and height of your office building. In general, if your building was built within the last twenty years, you should review your fire risk assessment and practices at least once every two years.

It's important to re-do your fire risk assessment every four years.

Now, these numbers are flexible. For example, if your company installs new machinery of any kind, it's important to do a fire risk assessment right after this happens. The same goes for any significant remodeling of your commercial building.

Both machinery and structural alterations can create new fire hazards. They can also require business owners to come up with different evacuation plans.

If you are leasing your commercial property, consult your landlord about their risk assessment practices. They may require, for example, an annual fire risk assessment review of the premises.

Final Thoughts

A small business fire risk assessment is vital for creating a fireproof workplace. Ensure your employees' safety by regularly reviewing your office space for fire hazards!

You can complete a fire risk assessment on your own. Or you can hire professionals to inspect your premises for hazards. Whatever you do, make sure you document your assessment for future review.

A Guide to Small Business Fire Risk Assessment

Alice Johnson

Alice Johnson is a blogger and writer. She loves to express her ideas and thoughts through her writings. She loves to get engaged with the readers who are seeking for informative contents on various niches over the internet. She is a featured blogger at various high authority blogs and magazines in which she shared her research and experience with the vast online community.

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