Employers could face serious legal action as early as next year because of a
general disregard for fire prevention and a lack of basic training for staff.
A report by consultancy Accenture found that a culture of complacency around
health and safety is not only placing staff at risk, but leaving organisations
open to future litigation.
The findings show that half of the employees questioned have not had a fire
drill in the past three months, while a third did not understand how to use the
fire safety equipment in the workplace.
The alarming results are underlined by separate findings that show more than
one in three workers would be willing to take legal action against their
employer should they suffer an accident at work.
In spring 2004, legislation will change the rules on conducting fire risk
assessments, transferring the onus from local fire authorities to employers.
The changes could have a significant affect on organisations as insurers are
likely to demand proof that a risk assessment has taken place.
The survey of nearly 500 UK staff uncovered several other serious
shortfalls, with more than two thirds of UK office workers receiving no health
and safety training in the past six months.
Accenture safety services manager Nigel Bromley said the report underlined
the need for a greater emphasis on health and safety. "This complacency
could present a serious financial burden for UK companies if it remains
unchecked.ÊUnfortunately, employers tend to look towards safety policies and
procedures after an accident."
More than a third of British office workers feel their safety at work is
compromised by insufficient office safety equipment.
The situation for companies could get worse in the future with younger staff
more likely to sue employers than older colleagues.