Thursday, 3 March 2011

Should Firefighters Lose Health and Safety Protection

Of course they should! or at least that appears to be the view of Brian Sweeney Chief Fire Officer of Strathclyde Fire and Rescue following a bizarre pronouncement on BBC Reporting Scotland.

In an attack of the rights of firefighters he is arguing that the burden of health and safety legislation is preventing rescues from where it is felt the risk to front line fire fighters is too great.

We have fire services in Scotland that are second to none and dedicated fire fighters that put their lives at risk every time they go on shift.  It is deeply disappointing that Brian Sweeney does not feel that all reasonable precautions should be taken to protect their safety in life threatening situations.  However it should not be a surprise as Chief Fire Officers have never really accepted that firefighters should be protected by the legislation.

As a result of their efforts it was not until 1979 that they were forced to accept that the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) did apply to their employees attending incidents.

Health and safety has never stopped, and never will stop a firefighter carrying out their job. If existing legislation is applied properly, risks are properly assessed, proper equipment is available at incidents, safe system of work are adopted and firefighters are properly trained in the use of specialised equipment then we will have a safer fire service, not only for workers but also those being rescued.

The STUC supports the view of the Fire Brigades Union that there are strong arguments in favour of a single fire service for Scotland, with a set of central standards drawing on good practice from existing services and through this delivering a more effective fire service, and a safer one for their workers.  

A single service would also allow specialised equipment and trained operators to be deployed in stations, without the restriction of borders as present, ensuring the best possible chance of having the proper equipment and the right people at incidents in good time, ready to save lives without risk to their own.

No one, apart from Brian Sweeney knows why he chose to go public on an issue that we are sure that the FBU would have been willing to have meaningful and constructive dialogue on.  What we are concerned about is that the Chief of the largest fire and rescue service in Scotland is adopting a largely narrow minded private sector, (CBI, IOD, and FSB) deregulatory approach to protecting the health, safety and welfare of their workers.

Who knows, perhaps his reasons for going public on this without the knowledge of the FBU will become clear in the coming weeks…!

Ian Tasker

1 comment:

  1. Great post. I must say to that we often watch movies and appreciate the work of fictional character as superhero. But in reality, the superheroes are saving our lives every day. Being a doctors, firefighters, etc they keep us safe. Proper fire prevention tools and training should be provided to the fire fighter to handle the task easily.

    Health and Safety Training.