Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Stamping out Fire Risk in the Workplace

Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Stamping out Fire Risk in the Workplace

Article excerpt

Business owners and managers can use their insurance carrier and their experience to evaluate their workplace for potential fire hazards. Here's how.

Risk is a normal part of doing business. Theft, accidents and weather-related delays can be expected whether you're operating a retail venture or a manufacturing facility. One area of risk, however, that should not be taken for granted is fire.

The fire problem in the United States, on a per capita basis, is one of the worst in the industrial world. Each year, thousands of Americans die in fires, tens of thousands are injured, and property losses reach billions of dollars. To put this in context, the combined annual losses from floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes and other natural disasters in the U.S. average just a fraction of the losses from fires, according to the National Fire Data Center.

Fire loss is typically measured in the number of deaths or dollars of property damage, but there are other significant intangible losses. These intangible loss areas include business interruption, business failure, degradation of the workplace environment and destruction of irreplaceable material.

In this day and age, no business should suffer a fire loss, because fires can be prevented and their hazards reduced Just follow these few simple steps to become a fire pro.

Pick Up The Phone

Fires start in three ways: equipment faillure, including electrical shorts and overheating; deliberate ignition or arson; and accidents caused by lightning or human error.

Studies estimate that 85 percent to 95 percent of all fires are caused by human behavior. Employees, vendors, customers - all represent fire exposure. The larger your operation and the more employees and locations you have, the greater your possibility of fire.

While no business can totally eliminate the risk of a workplace fire, your insurance company can help reduce your exposure.

Your insurance provider should have expertise in the area of fire risk reduction that you can use to help lower the chances of a workplace fire. Simply call your representative and request a fire-hazard inspection. What you want is an expert evaluation of your fire prevention policies and procedures, your fire protection equipment, including fire extinguishers and sprinklers, and your life-safety measures, including evacuation procedures.

As a matter of course, these inspections are performed as part of a pre-underwriting survey, especially when contracting for property coverage. You can request additional inspections at any time, however, and there should be no extra charge for this service.

Demand Industry Expertise

While all insurance providers offer some level of fire-safety expertise, it is worthwhile to determine if your provider has expertise within your industry. Every industry has its own level of fire risk, individualized loss trends and history of exposure. For example, dry cleaning companies frequently deal with chemicals that are highly flammable, while dry goods stores do not. Likewise, a car maker has different exposures than a car dealership or an aftermarket organization, which have different exposures than a grocery chain.

It makes good business sense to be sure that your insurance provider has specialized knowledge of your industry. If your carrier does not have this knowledge, you should consider changing insurance providers. Here are tips to help you find an insurance provider with fire-safety expertise in your particular industry:

* Read trade publications for reputable sources. …

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