I have a quick question for you. Here is the situation. You are sitting in your office and suddenly you smell smoke. There is an electrical short in a wire and it has caught your carpet on fire. Where is the closest fire extinguisher? If you are like others you may not know and that is why periodic safety training is necessary.
Not many know
A study on “inattentional blindness” asked 54 people if they knew where the closest fire extinguisher was to their office. Only 13 of the 54 knew. That means, if you translate this to your employee population, 75% or more of your employees will not know the location of the nearest fire extinguisher to their work location. Not a very safe situation. The people in the study had worked in that office for years. There was no difference in age or gender. When asked to find an extinguisher, most people where able to do so pretty quickly, after all most businesses are supposed to have a good supply of them.
The study showed that although we see things all the time we don’t attend to them. The psychologist conducting the study, Alan Castel, said that this fact is not necessarily a bad thing. The brain does not need to fill up with minor details. “It might be a good thing not to burden your memory with information that is not relevant to you,” Castel said.
Safety memory can improve
One aspect of the study showed that safety training can make a difference in remembering safety items. A few months after having been asked the original question all the participants were asked again the location of the nearest fire extinguisher. This time around ALL the participants new the answer. To me this shows the value of periodic training. In a situation where seconds can make the difference of minor damage or major damage, or even loss of life, it is important to cement that safety memory. Fire drills can be a major life saver.
Practice at home too
I think it is important to practice this at home with family members as well. Do you have a fire extinguisher at home? Does everyone know the location of it? They should. At holiday times when the chances of fire increase (be it Christmas lights or fireworks in July) being able to quickly extinguish a fire is critical.
Just a reminder for you travelers, if you are like me you don’t listen to the safety presentation. I have heard it many, many times so I tune it out. I am sure you do too. But in writing this it dawned on me that things change, like aircraft and procedures. So maybe next time I am flying I will listen so I really know where the exits are located. I suggest you do too.
Special thanks to Science Daily for the inspiration.