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Commercial Buildings - Top 10 Safety Issues You Need to Know

Posted by WSRB on May 20, 2013

Owning a commercial building or business means having to stay on top of safety issues that you may not otherwise encounter. If you have employees or customers coming in and out of the building, you have the added responsibility of protecting them from unsafe practices as well. During our commercial property inspections, our field reps encounter all kinds of unsafe conditions and fire hazards that affect insurance loss costs. Here are our top 10:

1.) Not protected by an automatic fire sprinkler system The plain truth is that sprinkler systems save lives and property. A building that is unprotected or under-protected is at a much higher risk of severe property damage or total loss in the event of a fire.

2.) Suppression system in a restaurant is not getting credit – Restaurants are a very common high-risk occupancy. If the hood and vent extinguishing system is not adequate for the type of cooking performed or it is not maintained it poses a serious fire hazard. All kitchen suppression systems should meet UL300 standards.


Commercial property inspections Ul Listed rag cans


3.) Lack of approved rag cans – UL Listed metal rag cans with self-closing lids should be used in auto body shops, repair garages, woodworking facilities, or any place where rags are used with flammable liquids. Oil-soaked rags have been known to catch fire hours or even days after use. If not properly contained, fire can break out and spread unchecked overnight or when no one is in the building.


Commercial property inspections An unpainted exterior can lead to weather damage


4.) Maintenance issues (broken windows, peeling paint, etc.) – General maintenance is important not only to the aesthetics of the building but also in preventing damage. Peeling exterior paint can expose siding to weather damage; water damage from roof leaks can spread or cause issues with mold; and a run-down appearance can look like an invitation to vandals. A generally well-kept building will be less likely to need major repairs down the road.


commercial property inspections Unprotected gas meters are susceptible to damage.


5.) Unprotected gas meter or piles of debris adjacent to building – Gas meters are often located in the parking lots of commercial buildings. If left unprotected, they can be damaged by cars or machinery, causing a dangerous gas leak. Combustible debris stored near or against a building can cause a fire hazard that can quickly spread to the walls, roof, and interior of the building.



commercial property risk inspections Effective dust collection system and clean work area.


6.)Improper dust-collection system – If combustible dust is not contained and disposed of effectively it can pose an explosion risk. Ideally, dust-collection systems should be constructed of metal duct work and terminate outside of the building.

7.) Adjacent to combustible building or building with a hazardous occupancy – When choosing a business location, many people don’t consider that the construction and occupancy of a building next door can affect their risk of fire and ultimately their insurance rates. Out-of-control fires can spread to neighboring buildings. If yours is located next to a high-risk operation, the likelihood of fire damage to your building is increased.

8.) Poor housekeeping – Dust, refuse, and combustible materials that are allowed to accumulate around work areas can act as a fuel source during a fire. Poor housekeeping around hot work areas poses an even bigger threat. A stray spark can ignite highly combustible materials that are lying around.


commercial property risk inspections An accumulation of combustible refuse poses a fire hazard.


9.) Ordinary electrical equipment in areas storing or using flammable liquids – Explosion-proof lighting, switches, motors, and electrical equipment is specifically designed for use in areas where flammable vapors are present. A spark from ordinary electrical equipment could have a devastating outcome. Portable lighting and equipment should be tested and listed by a nationally recognized organization, such as UL, and only used in areas which have been purged of flammable vapors.

 10.) General lack of safety precautions – Let’s face it, people don’t always follow the best safety practices. We’ve all seen the Safety Fails that make their way around the internet (if not, I highly recommend Googling “Safety Fail.” Some of the results you get will leave you in awe). When it comes to fire and safety hazards, a little common sense goes a long way. So be aware of your surroundings. It’s a good idea to periodically walk around your building, inside and out, and do safety inspections to check for any issues that may have been overlooked or lost among the day-to-day operations. If you’re not sure if a condition is safe, call your insurance agent or local fire department and ask. They are there to help.


Share your workplace safety stories with us below. Stay safe my friends! 


Article by: April LaRita Green


Topics: Insurance underwriting, loss cost, property risk inspections, GIS Mapping, Inspections, insurance