Fire Brigades Union

Fire Brigades Union

January 16, 2008 12:42 ET

FBU Attacks Government for Presiding Over a Health and Safety Crisis in the Fire Service

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM--(Marketwire - Jan. 16, 2008) - The Fire Brigades Union has strongly welcomed the Improvement Notice served on Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service following the deaths of four firefighters on 2 November. But the union is also warning of a health and safety crisis in the fire service with firefighter deaths hitting a 30-year high.

The union welcomes the HSE view that "the brave men and women in the emergency services deserve to have the right equipment, the right training and information whilst fulfilling their pledge to protect the public".

The FBU says the Government policy of allowing local fire services to draw up their own safety plans with no national standards and little operational guidance is deeply flawed. The result has been cuts to personnel, equipment and training, all of which have undermined the safety of firefighters.

The union accuses Government of encouraging local fire services to push through cuts that test the very boundaries of what is safe for firefighters. The result has been a downward rush to the lowest possible standards in the name of 'best practice'.

At national level there is a complete lack of clarity over the status of previously issued health and safety critical guidance, who is responsible for what and where the buck stops. The abolition of the Central Fire Brigades Advisory Council which previously produced such guidance has left a vacuum.

The Fire Service Minister was unable to answer parliamentary questions over what guidance remains in place. The union is also concerned at what action is now going to be taken in the aftermath of the deaths of firefighters in Stevenage, Bethnal Green and Marlie Farm.

It is highly critical of the Government decision to move out the production of health and safety critical guidance to an obscure committee of the Chief Fire Officers Association. The move would be viewed with grave concern.

FBU General Secretary Matt Wrack said: "Our grave concerns have been ignored and firefighter deaths have now hit a 30-year high. We welcome the improvement notice, but it is a tragedy that four more young firefighters have died before such a notice was served.

"Chief Officers regularly dismiss our health and safety concerns as mere 'scaremongering. It is unacceptable that the Chief Fire Officers Association been given the central role in producing health and safety critical advice as the Government response to this HSE action.

"Firefighters on stations will view this new role for chief officers with grave concern. Any guidance they do produce has no legal standing at all, but allows Government to maintain a hands off approach.

"All fire authorities must now shelve all their plans for cuts to their local fire services. There must be a root and branch review of how current policy is operating and major changes made before more firefighters are killed."

Firefighter deaths

2007 Warwickshire warehouse fire: Ian Reid, Darren Yates-Badley, John Averis, Ashley Stephens;

2006 Marlie Farm, East Sussex: Geoff Wicker and Brian Wembridge

2005 Hertfordshire, Stevenage, Harrow Court: Michael Millar and Jeff Wornham

2004 London Bethnal Green - Bill Faust and Adam Meere

Contact Information

  • Fire Brigades Union
    Duncan Milligan
    07736 818100