4th May 2011
New campaign launched to crack down on shoddy fire safety in British workplaces.
SME employers trying to save money are potentially putting their business and more seriously their employees’ lives at risk by cutting back on fire safety.
That’s according to a new survey released that shows that almost a fifth of companies in the UK have cut back on fire safety in the current economic climate by delaying maintenance of fire safety equipment such as detectors or extinguishers, reducing fire safety training for staff, and overlooking or delaying fire safety checks.
Industry experts say the statistics are cause for grave concern for the safety of workers around the UK and also for the future of small businesses, which if found to be in breach of fire safety regulations could face prosecution, which could result in jail sentences or fines – many of which can be crippling for SMEs.
In 2009 High Street Fashion chain New Look was fined £400,000 after breaching fire safety regulations when a fire broke out at its Oxford Street store. The business was fined £250,000 for failing to supply a "suitable and sufficient" fire risk assessment for the premises and £150,000 for failing to adequately train staff, showing just how costly cutting back on fire safety procedures can be in the long run.
Further studies show in the event of a major fire, 80% of businesses close for good within 18 months. Even minor fires can lead to damage and loss of equipment which, if businesses are found to be in breach of fire codes, won’t be covered by insurance.
Graham Ellicott from the Fire Industry Association (FIA) which conducted the study says while in some cases, the bricks and mortar and equipment can be rebuilt and replaced, lives cannot:
“The risk to businesses from not following fire safety procedures in the workplace is huge. But business aside, it’s the fact that many employers are risking death in their office or factory that is really worrying.”
The study, which also surveyed employees, shows that 30% of workers wouldn’t know what to do in the event of a fire at work. Almost a quarter say they don’t know where the fire exits are in their office, while nearly 40% wouldn’t know where to find a fire extinguisher.
Furthermore almost half of those surveyed for the study by the FIA don’t think they have been given adequate training or information on fire safety by their employers.
Ellicott says even if businesses are struggling economically, now is definitely not the time to try and save money on safety.
“Fire safety might seem like an easy cutback to make in these tough economic times, but the fact is it could be the biggest mistake you ever make. The study shows that a fifth of all managers have had a fire in their workplace. So there really is no excuse for cutting corners on safety, for both the sake of your business and your workers.”
For more information visit www.fia.uk.com