Why you really need to tell people where the fire extinguishers are

by on July 30, 2013 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: Workplace Safety Network

It may seem pointing out the fire extinguishers is a waste of time, but people will automatically ignore items they don’t use. It’s called inattention blindness: There’s no need for it, so we don’t see it.

Research: A UCLA study of 54 faculty, staff and students in the Psychology Department focused on a simple question: Where’s the nearest fire extinguisher to your office? Several didn’t know, and one was literally inches from his office door knob – and he’d had that office for 25 years. He just tuned out the fire extinguisher, which was next to his office door, at hand height.

While the researchers find this an interesting psychology study about the ability to tune out information, it has an extremely practical application for safety directors: People need to know where safety equipment is.

Office workers in particular, during safety orientations, should have it posted. You can make it a test just like the researchers here did: Give them a blank map floor plan and ask them to mark the nearest fire exits, fire extinguishers, and alternative exit routes. They won’t forget when they return to their desks.

As far as construction and general industry workers, safety orientations from frontline supervisors should include the safety equipment. Supervisors shouldn’t be afraid to remind workers too often. Some items, like the emergency eyewash station, are rarely used. Hearing about it often (and being annoyed by it, even) are more likely to create a memory that’s accessible when it’s needed.

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