One of the top risks to any New Mexico small business is fire. If you’re a small business owner in New Mexico, your very livelihood depends on your company’s ability to function. A workplace fire can have disastrous consequences on your business — which is just one of the many reasons it’s important to prevent a fire before it ever starts. Not every fire can be prevented, but by following these fire safety rules, you can eliminate most fire risks.
Practicing smart fire safety is everyone’s job. All employees should be aware of common fire hazards and report any potential problem areas to be corrected. But even with safety measures in place, fires can and do occur, and response must be safe and speedy. You can help reduce the danger to your team by establishing an employee fire training program. You can always replace buildings and equipment, but you can’t replace people. Good moves now can cut your risk of injury to your employees and customers later.
Here are some fire safety strategies to help keep your small business protected:
• Fire suppression systems should be installed, and the system should be regularly inspected along with fire extinguishers to ensure they comply with local laws and fire safety codes. Fire extinguishers need to be replaced after use and should be examined monthly.
• Create a written fire escape plan and post it in places accessible to all employees. Having a clear plan that is accessible to all employers and employees is vital during an emergency.
• Post building evacuation plans including a floor plan and emergency escape route and discuss them during new-employee orientations. An additional floor plan designed to aid the fire department should show fire protection systems, and include a description of the building, along with potential access issues for fire fighters.
• Conduct regular fire drills and have a designated meeting space for employees outside of the building.
• Be sure that someone in authority knows about any disability that could delay an escape and makes plans for a safe evacuation. Include disabled employees in the fire emergency planning process and make any necessary provisions. Don’t forget to consider how you will help any visitors present during a fire but unfamiliar with your plan.
• Train designated employees in the use of portable fire extinguishers and designate employees who will help evacuate fire scenes. Make sure they know how the fire alarm system operates and whether it communicates directly with your local fire emergency service.
• Post emergency telephone numbers and the company address by every telephone for quick access if a fire were to start in any work area. Make sure you have a current list of your staff, contractors, and visitors on site, enabling an audit in the event of a fire.
• Keep access to all electrical control panels free and clear. Material or equipment stored in front of them may delay your ability to shut down power quickly in an emergency.
• Comply with your building’s occupancy ratings. These are not merely suggestions; these are rules that you must implement and maintain to ensure safety and lawful compliance. Every building has a specific occupancy rating to control how many people are in a room or building at one time, and they are laws that must be followed to ensure safety.
All employees should know and understand fire safety, your company’s fire safety plan and what to do in case a fire was to occur. Here are some other tips for employees to help with fire safety:
• Count the number of doors, machines or desks between their work areas and the nearest exit. During a fire, they might need to find their way out in the dark.
• Learn the location of alternative exits from all work areas.
• Know the location of the nearest fire alarm and learn how to use it.
• Maintain a tidy and organized workplace. Avoid instances of clutter in their space, as it may add fuel to any fire or block access to exits and emergency devices. Never bend or crush any cords under any equipment or furniture.
• Smoke only in designated areas, extinguish smoking materials fully and properly dispose of cigarette butts. Never smoke in storerooms or chemical storage areas.
• If your office has a kitchen, never leave cooking food unattended. Keep appliances clean, free of crumbs, grease, and other food debris.
• Be sure to provide adequate ventilation when using and storing chemicals. Store oily rags in a fire-retardant or metal container, and make sure to dispose of them regularly and properly.
• Arson seems unlikely, but it happens more often than you might think. Help maintain building security to prevent arson. Always secure the building and report any suspicious persons.
It is essential that every New Mexico business has a fire safety plan in place. Putting together a fire safety plan might feel like a chore, but there are no short cuts when it comes to safeguarding your people and your livelihood. Even with all the safety measures in place, fires can and do happen. It is up to the employer to make sure that their employees can respond safely, correctly, and quickly in the event of a fire. A well-thought-out plan gives everyone peace of mind and helps the fire service do its job effectively.