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Missed step in closing procedures checklist sparks workplace fire

Risk Management

3 Minute Read

Tragedy struck our local village in Waipu, New Zealand recently. Three businesses – the pharmacy, the deli-café, and the local herbalist, along with an ATM and an electric vehicle charging station, were all totally destroyed by fire. Investigators said there were no suspicious circumstances; that the fire was due to an unfortunate accident. What happened? One of the businesses’ employees, who was only new to the job, missed a critical step in the closing procedures checklist before they left to enjoy their weekend.

In most small-to-medium size businesses, staff perform multiple roles and are responsible for a wide array of tasks. Some of the operational information they need makes it into a paper- or computer-based manual, the rest is just passed on by word of mouth or learned and refined along the way.

Each of the businesses affected by the weekend fire is woven into the everyday lives of the local community, providing jobs, as well as products and services. Each is made up of people who care about the work they do for their employers, and their customers.

No one wanted to forget to explain the full import of each step in the closing procedures, any more than that employee wanted to forget the essential step that would have prevented the fire that devastated the town’s commercial hub.

Having clearly documented procedures for your business is vital, not just for improving your productivity, but also for identifying and mitigating risk. Time is short, and we can easily get caught up in the day-to-day of a busy working week; yet as this example shows, carving out time to review, analyse, and document your key business practices and procedures is as important (if not more important) than managing cashflow, or serving your client base. The only other thing that ranks as highly is making sure your staff understand and apply the procedures at all times.

Way We Do’s active SOP software platform helps businesses create procedures that are easy to understand and apply, and allow a level of autonomy and confidence for their often busy teams to manage their workloads. They make training new staff easier, and provide a solid reference for staff who are changing roles, or covering for another team member.

Have a look at your diary now and see where you can carve out some time to update and refine your existing processes. Think about the potential cost of not implementing a simple process – in fact, pick three that are at the core of where your business is at right now – and think about the potential upside of investing that time into creating or refining a simple process that will keep your business running smoothly, and safely.


I caught up with one of the business owners just last week. He told me the investigators had narrowed the fire’s cause to an electrical fault. Imagine the relief that new employee must be feeling (not to mention the ones who trained them)! But the lesson remains strong–sound procedures will protect your business, or at least keep you covered, in the event of disasters large or small.

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