Fire Brigades Union

Fire Brigades Union

July 31, 2011 19:01 ET

Stop Putting Firefighters at Risk, Union Tells London Fire Brigade After Damning Health and Safety Executive Report

LONDON, ENGLAND--(Marketwire - July 31, 2011) - The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has called on London Fire Brigade bosses to give greater commitment to the safety of its firefighters, after a damning report by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) identified several failings.

The report by the HSE was a follow-up exercise, focusing specifically on areas of concern which arose following the deaths of two London firefighters – Bill Faust and Adam Meere – at a fire in Bethnal Green in 2004. While improvements had been identified in some areas, in others the lessons have not been learned.

The report, made public by the Fire Brigades Union, highlights thirteen areas for improvement, including the need for better training in the use of breathing apparatus. The HSE has told London Fire Brigade to come up with an action plan to address the shortcomings.

Key points from the report include:

  • A widespread view by firefighters that training in core firefighting skills had taken a back seat to "community work";

  • Concerns over the quality and frequency of training in the "risk critical" area of use of breathing apparatus while tackling fires;

  • Demands by firefighters for better training often going unheeded by bosses;

  • Officers expected to deliver training often complain that they have received insufficient training themselves;

  • A lack of facilities for "real fire training", which would simulate real-life firefighting scenarios.

The FBU's regional health and safety co-ordinator, Gordon Fielden, said, "This very disturbing report puts the London Fire Brigade on notice that it must do much more to protect its firefighters from danger while they are at work.

"We are especially alarmed over the many concerns raised by the HSE over the inadequacy of breathing apparatus training. This is the most critical part of a firefighter's job, and one that can make the difference between lives being lost or saved.

The London Fire Brigade expects its firefighters to put their lives on the line to rescue others. The very least it can do is to make sure it gives them the very best training to do their jobs. But it is failing, and the result of that failure could well be lives lost.

"We have been arguing for a long time that training in core firefighting skills is being sacrificed to allow for more extensive work in the community. Community work has its place, but is wrong and dangerous for the brigade not to make basic training the priority.

"Previously the brigade has audited itself in some of these areas, and not surprisingly those audits produced glowing conclusions and an outpouring of self-congratulation. But it has taken an independent body to show that those audits were a charade.

Now the brigade has been handed an action plan for its failings. The chairman of the fire authority, Councillor Brian Coleman, has been very quick in the past to bathe in the glow of perceived success. Now he needs to take responsibility for these serious failings.

"It is also a shot across the bow of those who have been agitating for swingeing cuts in the fire service. Cuts cost lives, and there can be no compromise when it comes to protecting the lives of Londoners and firefighters themselves.

"We will be watching the brigade like a hawk. Notices to improve in thirteen areas is a very serious matter, and they had better get started. Our members do a magnificent job, and we will not allow their safety to be jeopardised by poor training or cost-cutting."

Contact Information

  • Media contact:
    Gordon Fielden
    07854 998 515