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2 min read

Do you need a Public Safety Permit?

If your business poses a potential safety risk, you may be required to obtain a Safety Permit. Safety risks can range from handling chemicals to serving food.

The most common safety permits are:

  • Health
  • Fire
  • Building
  • Zoning

Not obtaining required Public Safety permits could cost you thousands in fines and penalties and ruin your company. Your business’ reputation and goodwill are directly linked to your protection of your customers. Additionally public safety permits are necessary to protect the general public.

Let’s discuss some examples of Public Safety permits. 

When are Health Permits Required?

Anyone serving or even handling food or beverages needs a safety permit. It is the government’s seal of approval that your business isn’t posing a health risk to the general public.

Health Permit Example

Chet and Will owned a small coworking space in downtown Saint Louis. Things were going great and they decided to expand by selling coffee, lattes, and muffins off a cart near the main entrance. They didn’t think to get a health permit -- they were focused on just creating a great environment. But a health inspector was walking by the coworking space and saw a sign advertising the food and drink being sold. He knew he hadn’t inspected the site because he was the only inspector in the town.

As a result, Chet and Will’s side business had to shut down until they resolved the health permit issue, and it led to terrible press for their coworking space, giving the impression to the public that it was unsanitary.

When are Fire Permits Required?

Fire Permits are required when a situation might involve a "fire hazard."

Determining what counts as a “fire hazard” is not always obvious. These permits are almost always issued at the local (county or municipal) level which makes tracking down the information a little easier.

Contact your local government or local fire department if you deal with fire, explosives, fireworks, gasoline, Christmas trees, or any flammable materials.

You should also look into this if you are holding a carnival, fair, festival, or other event that involves temporary structures (like tents).

When are Building Permits Required?

Building permits apply when you are improving, modifying, or altering a structure. Some local governments even extend this definition to “maintenance” of a structure. If you are doing construction work of any kind, it is best to look into whether you need a building permit.

When are Zoning Permits Required?

Almost every local government has “zoning” laws. This means that no matter where your business is located (yes, even your own house) there is likely a law that says what you can and cannot do in that particular zone. You cannot run a storage facility in an area that is zoned for residential use. Likewise, you can’t have a restaurant in an area that is only zoned for light industrial use.

You need to check your local government’s zoning laws before you start your business in a physical location. Even if you are only running a home-based, online business, if you plan to meet clients or store your product in your house, you need to know the zoning regulations.

How to Find Out if Public Safety Permits are Required

First, check with your State and Local Governments to ensure you meet all requirements for Public Safety Permits. Regions vary, and certain locations can be much more regulated than others, so conduct thorough research.

Research your state government website or state Online Business Portal for Public Safety Permit Requirements. Additionally, contact your County Office and City Hall to inquire about certain permit requirements. Once you have obtained any necessary Public Safety permits, store them with all corporate records.

These can be much more regulated than others, so conduct thorough research.


Related: 4 Most Common Business Licenses and Permits Every Business Needs