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HR News Update – Most workers not trained in basic fire precautions

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Four-fifths of British workers would not feel confident enough if confronted with a small fire at work, new figures suggest.

These are the findings of a UK-based fire risk assessment company, which found worrying numbers of workers in offices, industrial settings and the retail sector completely untrained in basic fire safety. According to FireUK.co.uk, up to 95 percent of staff claim to have had no training in what to do if they encounter a fire in the workplace, with many not even knowing which extinguisher to use on different types of fire. “This paints a thoroughly depressing picture of workplace fire safety in Britain,” said FireUK.co.uk spokesperson Mark Hall, “and it's one that could cost both lives and millions of pounds in property.”

According to figures obtained in face-to-face polling of workers from a cross-section of working professions: 79 percent of workers said they wouldn't have the confidence to fight a small workplace rubbish bin fire; 95 percent said they had never been trained in fire safety; 83 percent didn't realise the need for different extinguishers to fight different types of fires; 16 percent didn't know where their nearest fire exit to their work area is. The fact that regulations mean that all fire extinguishers have to be predominantly red contributes to people's nervousness in fighting fires; and is a major factor that underlines the need for education in the different approaches to fire safety, FireUK.co.uk says.

“At least virtually all respondents knew what to do in the event of a fire – raise the alarm and get out of the building,” said Mark Hall, “but it's something that most people have worked out for themselves instead of being taught best practice. But when it comes to fighting the blaze, most people say they won't because they think they might make things worse. And in the current state of lack of fire education, that's the best thing they can do. At least three people told the survey team that while they had received fire training, it was only given grudgingly so that their employers could obtain a fire safety certificate, an attitude to fire safety that is worrying to say the very least. But on the bright side, 98 percent of those polled have taken part in a planned fire evacuation drill in the last 12 months. Other results from the survey revealed more depressing statistics about how workers respond to an emergency situation: 21 percent admitted posting on social media that the fire alarm had gone off before vacating the premises, one percent didn't know the phone number for the emergency services.

“Is 'The office is on fire LOL' more important than getting out alive?” Hall asks, “Seconds make the difference in the event of fire. Facebook can wait.bAnd anyone doesn't know 999 by now, we're amazed they got through the job interview in the first place.” FireUK.co.uk is convinced that the only way that companies can address this potentially dangerous gap is through staff training, both for new staff and employees who have been there some time and think they've seen it all. The company says that even the most experienced staff freeze when faced with a fire emergency, simply because they've never been told what to do. “It doesn't cost the Earth to train your staff in fire safety and procedures. And in the end it could save lives, and quite possibly save your business.”

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