Stop Putting Firefighters at Risk, Union Tells London Fire Brigade After Damning Health and Safety Executive Report
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.”
Gordon Fielden 07854 998 515
TO: ALL MEMBERS
ALL MEMBERS – WARWICKSHIRE (HOME ADDRESSES)
cc: Executive Council Members
All Regional Officials (Region 7)
FBU members will have followed closely the developments this week relating to the fatal fire at Atherstone-on-Stour in 2007. It would not be appropriate to comment on the details at this stage but it is important to outline the various roles which the Fire Brigades Union has undertaken since the tragedy. This work involves legal representation, a health and safety investigation and other advice and support.
All four of the deceased were members of the FBU and the Union has therefore provided – and continues to provide – legal assistance to the families of Brothers Reid, Averis, Stephens and Yates-Badley. Regrettably, the FBU has considerable experience in the preparation and provision of such advice and representation and those involved in this case have drawn on advice and support of officials from Head Office or from other Regions/Brigades which have dealt with fatal accidents in recent years.
In addition, large numbers of FBU members have been interviewed as part of the police HSE investigation. This has now resulted in charges being made in a number of cases. This is unprecedented in the history of the UK Fire and Rescue Service. Legal advice and representation has been provided or offered through separate solicitors to all members involved.
I am sure that all members will appreciate the difficulties which are faced in this terrible and tragic situation. I can assure you that every effort has been made to ensure that all those involved have been provided with the best possible support and representation from the FBU and our solicitors and legal advisors.
In addition to legal advice and representation, the Union has been undertaking a thorough investigation of the health and safety issues involved in the fatalities. This will be published once completed and when it is appropriate to do so.
The difficult circumstances since 2007 have meant that a large number of FBU officials at local, regional and national level have been involved in different aspects of the Union’s work in this case. I am sure that you appreciate that there are a whole range of issues which would not be appropriate for discussion at this stage.
I will provide further information when it is possible and appropriate to do so.
H&S Safety Critical Alert – CARPS: Scania Chassis Model P310 4X2, Multi Star Platform (Supplied by Marigus)
10 September 2010
Cc: Brigade Health & Safety Coordinators
Regional Health & Safety Coordinators
Lothian and Borders Brigade Secretary, Andy Fulton , has informed me of the brigades intention to remove Scania Chassis Model P310 4×2, Multistar Platform ( supplied by Magirus) vehicles from operational use due to safety concerns.
These vehicles have over a period of time undergone various modifications after the FBU had raised concerns over their suitability. Those modifications have included a reduction in the size of the water tank from 1500L to 1000L (litres), baffles in the water tank, low profile tyres and the removal of ladders from the roof.
Following tests carried out by the brigade using video equipment, it was found that the rear wheels lifted some 30cm from the road when negotiating an average roundabout at 22 mph.
Similar tests were carried out using a Turn Table Ladder with no such problems being experienced.
I would urge you to raise this with your brigade management if you have similar vehicles.
Health, Safety & Welfare