Home>Premises>Fire Safety>Workplace fire safety knowlege gaps highlighted
Home>Training & Development>Guidance>Workplace fire safety knowlege gaps highlighted

Workplace fire safety knowlege gaps highlighted

29 January 2024

NEW RESEARCH has revealed that 2 in 5 Brits (44%) would not know what to do in the event of a fire at work.

The study1, commissioned by Phoenix Health & Safety, surveyed 1,500 participants UK-wide to uncover how well Brits understand fire hazards in the workplace. 

Each year there are around 22,000 workplace fires around the UK2, highlighting the importance of having adequate fire safety knowledge. 

Phoenix Health & Safety has gathered insightful data to understand if Brits would know what actions to take in the event of a fire, and how businesses should take action to reduce the risk of fire-related workplace incidents. 

Overall, the study found that 2 in 5 Brits (44%) would not know what to do in the event of a fire at work. Commenting on this finding, Nick Higginson, CEO of Phoenix Health & Safety says, “For fire safety to be most effective in a workplace, it’s key that individuals at every level of the organisation understand the procedures in full. 

“Without a well-rehearsed fire safety procedure, there can be delays to taking appropriate and immediate action, so it’s essential that businesses ensure their staff are fully aware of every aspect of the process.” 

The study also found that nearly half (47%) of the respondents would not be able to locate their fire safety assembly point, and only around 1 in 6 (16%) have had a fire safety drill in their workplace in the past year. As well as this, barely over a quarter would be able to state who the fire officers in their workplace are. 

Nick says: “According to government fire safety regulations, all workplaces should have a fire drill at least once a year and not doing so can result in a fine for the business3. Fire drills are important as they allow persons with fire safety responsibility to evaluate the effectiveness of the evacuation plan that is in place and make any necessary changes. To see that such a small percentage can recall a fire drill occurring in their workplace in the last year is a cause for concern. 

“Not knowing the location of the fire assembly point is just one example of why having a clear and well-rehearsed procedure is so important. All new staff should be made aware of the location of the assembly point and any fire exits, and should be reminded periodically through training to refresh their memory of fire safety protocol.” 

Only around a quarter of respondents (24%) stated that they would know which fire extinguisher they could use to put out fires on different types of materials. To test fire extinguisher knowledge, respondents were given two scenarios to test their understanding of fire extinguisher types and their differences. 

In the first scenario, respondents were asked to identify which fire extinguisher was not safe to use to put out a fire caused by combustible materials such as paper and wood. A large majority of respondents answered incorrectly, with almost three-quarters (74%) unable to identify that the black CO2 extinguisher is not safe to use. 

For the second scenario, respondents were tested on which fire extinguisher would be safe to use to put out a fire caused by an electrical fault. Once again, most respondents answered this incorrectly, with over two-thirds (71%) of respondents failing to identify that ‘black, blue or green’ extinguishers should be used. 

Nick says: “Understanding which fire extinguisher to use in the event of a fire could be the difference between the fire being dealt with quickly and safely, or a full-scale emergency. 

“In most workplaces, the fire extinguishers available should have signage that shows the extinguisher type and what sort of fire it can be used on. Whilst you may want to react quickly, taking a few seconds longer to identify the correct fire extinguisher could potentially be life-saving.” 

Nick continues: “It is the responsibility of organisations and their appointed persons with fire safety responsibility to ensure that all fire safety regulations are adhered to and a culture of following the rules is ingrained in the workplace, but it is also the responsibility of employees themselves to ensure the regulations are followed. 

Managers and supervisors who want to attain the necessary knowledge and skills to manage fire hazards can take a relevant fire safety course to get accredited, such as the NEBOSH Certificate in Fire Safety. 

For more information, visit www.phoenixhsc.co.uk/iosh-courses/


1. Survey data available upon request
https://dorsetfireprotection.co.uk/commoncausesworkplacefires/#:~:text=Each%20year%20there%20are%20around,be%20avoided%20by%20improved%20 housekeeping.