Fires Don’t Always Start with a Lit Match

Federated Insurance Safely Speaking

September 2018

by Jon Medo

Fires Don’t Always Start with a Lit Match

Fires that hit equipment dealers come in all sizes. They can occur anytime, anywhere, and have a variety of causes. They don’t discriminate. In the past, we have discussed spontaneous combustion, heating systems, electrical systems, smoking, poor housekeeping, the storage of flammables, and mechanical equipment failure as potential fire risks. These continue to be the most frequent causes across all industries, and are often the result of missed opportunities to recognize and remove the hazard. But, sometimes, hazards can be easy to miss:

  • A trickle charge was left on the battery of a tractor overnight. The lid of the tractor was not propped up well enough and fell during the night, causing a fire. There was extensive damage to inventory and the building.
  • A tractor was brought into the shop because of a complaint regarding battery issues. The tractor was received, but no work was performed, and it was left in the shop overnight. An electrical fire broke out, causing major damage to the building and its contents.
  • Flammable fluids were spilled on the floor of an equipment dealership, but not cleaned up. Sparks from nearby tools ignited the fluids causing a total loss of the building and inventory.

Business owners need to be ready for anything. There’s no doubt that fires are devastating and have implications far beyond property damage. A thousand thoughts flood a dealership owner’s mind when watching his or her company being reduced to rubble: Was anyone hurt or killed? What will happen tomorrow, next week, next year? How will I take care of my employees? Will they even stay?

Fires create chaos

Businesses are vital to a community’s well-being and survival. A fire at a business leaves community members and officials wondering if the company will survive.

Fires create uncertainty

Employees are a business’s most valuable asset, but a fire can leave them with questions: Do I still have a job or do I need to move on? Will I get a paycheck — even for the short-term? What can I do to help? If the company shuts down, then what?

Fires create doubt

Customers rely on businesses to fulfill their needs. When customers see a business go up in flames, they can’t help but wonder how it will affect them. Will their needs be met? Today’s just-in-time business transactions may require many customers to go elsewhere to get the products and services previously provided by the damaged supplier. Will that be a short- or long-term arrangement?

Fire prevention is an important enough topic to take the proper time and effort to put into action. The annual National Fire Prevention Week is a valuable reminder that preventing workplace fires is something every business can do to help ensure they’ll be around tomorrow.

But fire prevention is not just a one-and-done annual risk management activity. To be effective, it needs to be done daily. Investigations reveal that most fires can be prevented if businesses consistently pay attention to a few very specific hazards. In the past, Federated has provided generic fire risk evaluation checklists to use during facility inspections. Although most fire risks are universal for the industries we serve, an industry- and company-specific checklist will allow each dealership to concentrate on the risks unique to its operations.

Checklists are intended to help employees, supervisors, and managers recognize and remove fire hazards. However, checklists can do only so much. Employee training and outfitting your premises with proper fire prevention safeguards, procedures, and equipment will add to your ability to prevent a fire from taking control of your company.

This article is for general information and risk prevention only. It does not cover or identify all risk exposures, nor should it be considered legal or other expert advice. The recommendations presented may help reduce, but are not guaranteed to eliminate, any or all risk of loss. Qualified counsel should be sought with questions specific to your circumstances.  © 2018 Federated Mutual Insurance Company.