TOP STORIES Walking on hot coals: a corporate event goes wrong

Walking on hot coals: a corporate event goes wrong


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Walking barefoot on hot coals, an ancient religious ritual that has become popular in recent years as a corporate team building exercise, has once again brought a group of employees together through the shared suffering of burned feet.

In the latest case of a botched stunt, 25 employees of a Swiss ad agency were injured Tuesday night while walking over hot coals in Zurich, officials said. Ten ambulances, two ambulance crews and police officers from several departments were sent to help. according to Zurich police. Thirteen people were briefly hospitalized.

“We are very sorry about this incident and are doing everything we can to ensure that our employees recover quickly,” said Michi Frank, chief executive of the company. Holbach, the message says. The company declined to provide more details about the event.

The feeling that walking on burning coals required a special inner state motivated his transformation from a mystical spiritual tradition into a capitalist self-improvement project. The practice appears to have originated separately thousands of years ago as a religious tradition in various places around the world.

In Greece, the tradition includes singing, dancing, and walking on fire to commemorate the rescue of icons from a burning church. Seemingly unrelated traditions exist in Bali, Fiji, India and Japan.

Travel journalists popularized it, sometimes in mystical terms. “The secret is concentration,” wrote The New York Times in 1973 while walking through a fire in a temple above Kyoto. “Either the mind, body and environment are in perfect harmony, and all sequences of cause and effect become simultaneous, or they are not, and nothing happens.”

It has since become popular in film and television, especially as a group activity in workshops led by Tony Robbins, a life coach and motivational speaker.

“Now let me show you how to walk on fire,” loves Mr. Robbins. announce. He organizes long lines of people to pass through a short row of burning coals while leading the participants with a chilling call and response of “Say yes!” and yes!”

“The purpose of the fiery walk,” he said. explained at the 2017 event, “it’s just a great metaphor for taking things you once thought were difficult or impossible and showing how quickly you can change.”

Sometimes the metaphor becomes too real. Dozens of participants who walked on coals at Robbins workshops in 2012 and 2016 injured, some hospitalized with third-degree burns.

“The goal is always to have no discomfort for guests afterwards, but it’s not uncommon for less than 1 percent of attendees to experience hot spots, which are similar to sunburn that can be treated with aloe,” said a spokeswoman for Mr. -n. Robbins said The Washington Post after a 2016 episode.

Pop culture has sometimes ridiculed the liberating potential of firewalking. In 2007 episode from the NBC sitcom The Office, Dwight Schrute tries to blackmail his boss Michael Scott by not crossing hot coals at a corporate retreat, but instead painfully standing on them until he gets promoted. In Ace Ventura 2: When Nature Calls (1995), Jim Carrey’s character only crosses the coals thanks to throwing someone else stepped on them and stepped on him.

But other images touted the potential for spiritual transformation, including the finale of the first season of the CBS reality show The Revenant in 2000. Along the way, the number of reports of injuries has increased. In 2001, a dozen Burger King employees were injured during a corporate meeting in Key Largo, during which they walked on hot coals.

Was it a spiritual fall? Most likely not. With the proper education and training, walking on hot coals is not as dangerous as it sounds, experts say.

“For the vast majority of people, a pinky-sized blister is the worst thing that can happen to you,” physicist David Wyllie said in a phone interview Thursday. Mr. Willie, who taught for many years at the University of Pittsburgh, once general world record for the longest walking distance on hot coals.

Mr. Willey said it was safe to walk on coals at 1,000 degrees for 20 feet or more, adding that he had walked on coals at that temperature for 495 feet without getting a blister.

On his Web site, he writes that when walking fast, the bare foot comes into contact with the coals for only about a second, which is not enough for heat to be painfully transferred from the coals to human flesh. According to him, both coals and leather have a much lower thermal conductivity than, for example, metal.

But mistakes can lead to injury. These include bending the toes and pinching the coal between them; walking on hot coals; wrong choice of wood species, as some heat up more than others; and fire walking on the beach, where your feet can sink into the sand, said Mr. Willey.

This was announced by the organizer of the event in Zurich, Tomi Widmer. in an interview with the Swiss news agency Blick that he warned the participants not to “walk, run, or jump” over the fire, but to walk over it with a steady and quick “military pace”. Mr Widmer said he felt sorry for everyone who was hurt, but denied he was responsible for the accident. “It could be a big deal,” he said.

Emma Bubola as well as Derrick Bryson Taylor provided a report from London. Christopher F. Schütze provided a report from Berlin.

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