How To Keep Your Business From Going Up In Smoke… Literally

By Glenn Stearns
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How To Keep Your Business From Going Up In Smoke… Literally

An open letter from Glenn Stearns, CEO of Kind Lending

Well it’s about that time of the year here in California.

While the rest of the country is getting out of the groove of summer, the children are adjusting to the new school year, the shredded beach-body folks are letting out their first full exhale in four months…

And we’ve got one eye glued to our screens to keep track of the wildfires.

Thankfully, it’s not as much of a worry for those of us in Los Angeles and Southern California, but it’s got me thinking nonetheless.

While wildfires might not be an issue for all of my readers, workplace fires are still a hazard. Did you know that in 2019, there were over 18,000 office and store fires in the United States?

That comes out to just under $750 MILLION in damages.

A fire in your office or place of business could be catastrophic. Even a minor incident means your location could be shut down for days — if not weeks. If your business is the sort where employees can’t work remotely, that could mean months of recovery and playing catch up.

That’s why I did my research (so you don’t have to) and am here to share four ways you can keep your team members safe… and your smoke detectors silent.

1) Stay Cool In The Kitchenette

According to the US fire administration, cooking was the underlying reason for 32% of workplace fires.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not telling you to throw out your coffee maker and microwave. God knows if you’d survive such a company-shaking loss. What I’m saying is that it should be everyone’s responsibility to keep the breakroom (or kitchen if you have one) safe.

There’s a pretty good chance that your microwave has a sign on it warning people not to heat up fish in it, but shouldn’t there also be one warning people to remove all metal utensils or tinfoil before heating up their food?

While both cases emit toxic fumes and render the microwave unusable, at least the fish can’t start a fire or raise your insurance deductibles.

If you’ve got a kitchen or a stove in your office, make sure that you’re keeping on top of the cleaning. Grease buildups can cause some of the most unexpected and difficult to fight fires — and remain the main cause of fires in the kitchen.

2) Frayed Wires Start Fires

Here’s my “Loose Lips Sink Ships” mantra. Alongside such certified gold nuggets as “stressy workers are messy workers,” I'm thinking of putting together a coffee table book. How does Glenn’s Gems sound?

But I digress!

Last year, electrical malfunction made up 10% of office fires — and if you needed another reason to switch to those newer, safer, greener lights — electrical distribution systems and lighting equipment were behind 50% of annual fires between 2012 and 2016.

While it’s still a possibility that brand new equipment can malfunction or spark, spending the extra money to upgrade older electronics could literally save you millions in the long run. Not to mention your life!

So, to loop back to my point about cooking, if your coffee maker looks like it predates Starbucks, or if your vending machine still accepts hay-pennies, it’s probably time for an update.

3) Nip It In The Butt

It’s a dying artform — the act of lighting up a cigarette in the parking lot.

I’ve been over the practice for a long time, myself. However, here in the US, workplace protections still exist for those who like to light up.

So hear this, and hear it well: making sure that your employees have a proper place to dispose of their ashes and cigarette butts is ESSENTIAL for preventing fires.

Thankfully, gone are the days where every executive and junior accountant had an ashtray (or two) on their desk, but it’s still important that you have smoking receptacles placed around your building. The last thing you want is for someone to flick their lit butt into the bushes and start an unintentional brush fire.

You can find these at Walmart, online, or at really any industry supply store like Uline.

4) Get Equipped And Stay Up To Date

In case you didn’t know, fire extinguishers expire, and after that date they’re about as useful as a spare tire on a sailboat. So if you haven’t checked yours recently, it’s time for you to take stock.

It’s little things, like checking that your smoke detectors are stocked on new batteries, and confirming that escape routes are clearly marked and visible, that can make a life-saving difference in the event of a fire.

Hopefully you’ll follow my tips above and avoid a fire altogether, but there’s no guarantees in this world, so being prepared for the worst is a MUST. If you can, running routine fire drills can be a serious game changer.

As a leader, you’re responsible for the health and safety of your team members. So take fire-safety seriously, and if you do your job right, no one on your floor will have to give it a second thought.

Stay frosty, Underdogs.

Signing off,