THE UK is a great place to start a business. Come up with a great idea, sell it to the buying public, and build a business that you and your family can be proud of. People have been doing it here for hundreds of years. But know this: doing so is an awful lot of work. Furthermore, there are a lot of non-business aspects to starting a business that entrepreneurs do not think about until they are fully engaged.
We tend to think of starting a business as little more than coming up with a product or service and figuring out a way to market it. But what if you want to start a business that includes physical premises? What if you plan to hire employees to work in your business? Now you have a whole litany of other things to worry about. Among them are workplace and fire safety.
To expand on this idea of there being non-business aspects to starting a business, we will focus on fire safety. UK businesses have an obligation to ensure that their premises are as safe as possible from the threat of fire. That same obligation extends to commercial property owners and landlords that own residential properties.
It Starts with Fire Prevention
Maintaining fire safety starts with fire prevention. The government has established standards for that very purpose. For example, regulations stipulate the building materials that can be used for constructing new buildings in a fire-safe way. Regulations also address fire suppression systems, means of egress, and many other preventative strategies.
The obvious idea behind prevention is to reduce the risk of a devastating fire occurring. In cases when a fire does occur, prevention strategies are designed to ensure that people remain safe and the fire is extinguished as quickly as possible. If an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, there is real value in maintaining fire safety through prevention strategies.
The Fire Risk Assessment
The key to prevention is what is known as the fire risk assessment. This is an assessment required by law for all commercial properties and residential rentals in the UK. It is conducted by a responsible person as designated by the regulations. The responsible person is usually a property owner or manager, a business owner, or senior executive.
Responsible persons can obtain the government’s fire risk assessment guide for help in understanding how it all works. In a nutshell, the responsible person goes through the entire property looking for potential hazards. For example, is there both a source of flame and fuel within close proximity to each other? If so, that is a fire hazard. Are there exposed electrics or overhead cables in the area? They are hazards as well.
The whole point of the fire risk assessment is to identify problems and offer solutions. As an assessment is being conducted, the responsible person is looking at everything from heat generating equipment to flammable liquids. He or she is looking for scenarios in which people might be endangered. Everything is being written down for the purposes of producing a safety plan later on.
That safety plan dictates what strategies will be employed to minimise risks. It also details what actions will be taken in the event a fire emergency does occur. Plans are normally rehearsed in tabletop scenarios and each person involved in executing the plan participates. When flaws are uncovered, they are corrected. New scenarios are then generated to test the corrected plan.
No Revenue in Fire Safety
Fire safety is considered a non-business aspect of running a business because it does not generate revenue – unless your business is selling fire suppression equipment and the like. Yet fire safety is critically important anyway. Protecting life and limb is far more important than generating revenue.
It should also be noted that failing to follow fire safety regulations could have serious consequences. Not only could people be injured and property lost in a fire, but businesses and property owners could also be subject to fines and prosecution for failing to maintain a safe environment. In short, there is a lot at stake here.
Assigning a responsible person to handle fire safety will generate revenue. Coming up with a safety plan and seeing to it that the plan is routinely practised will not put an extra pound in the bank. But all it takes is a single fire to make a company regret not having paid attention to fire safety.
As you can see, fire safety is just one of the non-business aspects of starting a business. It is something every business owner has to be concerned about regardless of the product or service being sold. All such non-business aspects really need to be thought through thoroughly before getting a start-up off the ground. Waiting until a company is up and running to consider such things only makes compliance harder.