fire-Engine

As new research raises questions over fire risk in the workplace, Mark Harvey from law firm Hugh James, says more needs to be done by employers when it comes to providing adequate health and safety training.

Following the tragic Grenfell Tower incident, there’s no denying that fire safety has been at the forefront of the national news agenda since June. Yet, despite the current emphasis on preventative measures that should be in place to avoid a similar event from a residential perspective, new research has highlighted some worrying gaps in fire safety procedure when it comes to UK workplaces which businesses – whether small or big – must address.

The research, which was independently commissioned by law firm Hugh James, revealed that nearly one in five UK employees work for a company where not a single fire drill has been carried out in the last twelve months, despite this being a UK Government requirement for workplace health and safety regulations.

Furthermore, the survey revealed gaps in fire safety procedures at UK workplaces. Worryingly, the research highlighted that almost half hadn’t received workplace training on what to do in the event of a fire or any health and safety policies at all. Furthermore, the findings also revealed that many couldn’t recall when the fire doors or fire extinguishers at their workplace were last inspected.

With over a third of all employees admitting to not feeling competent enough to know all health and safety policies in the event of an emergency, it’s important that everyone in the workplace understands that they have a vital part to play when it comes to being responsible for one another to avoid mishaps in the future. This means that employers – whether they are business owners, directors or entrepreneurs – need to ensure that their workforce understand the true importance of taking health and safety seriously in order to reduce the risk of future misconduct.

Although the vast majority of respondents said they took workplace health and safety seriously, the research highlighted a risk of employers taking a lacklustre approach in general when it comes to overall health and safety in the workplace.

Specifically, more than a third of employees either didn’t know where the accident log book is located at their work or that there isn’t one, whilst one in five of the 970 managers polled admitted to not following the health and safety protocol after every employee injury or accident. Businesses should surely be doing more to provide more comprehensive and robust training for employees, no matter their size.

Disparities were also revealed between full and part-time workers when it came to health and safety training in the workplace more generally, with those in part-time employment at risk of missing out on adequate training. Nearly half of part-time employees said that they hadn’t had a health and safety induction when they joined their current company, compared with just under a third of full-time employees saying that they had not received an induction when they started their job. Part-time workers also felt less competent than their full-time counterparts in the event of an emergency, with 43% admitting they didn’t feel they would know enough should an incident happen.

With many employees working part-time patterns or more flexible hours than ever before, there’s a chance that some people might miss out on vital health and safety inductions and more general training – especially when time in a busy day is already tight. Employers should therefore be encouraged to be far more rigorous and factor in providing adequate training for those part-time workers who may not be in the workplace when, for example, a fire drill takes place – at least so they get a clear walkthrough of what to do should an emergency occur.

Ultimately the findings of the survey not only highlights that there appears to be some confusion around existing legislation amongst managers and employees, but there is also a lack of understanding when it comes to the consequences of misconduct in the long-run and now’s the time for businesses to consider on what steps they need to take to address this.

Mark Harvey is a Partner and Head of Specialist Personal Injury at Hugh James. For further information, visit www.hughjames.com