Fire service told to improve safety

By James HoreFIREFIGHTERS have criticised the county's fire authority for its “lack of commitment and resources” after it was ordered to make health and safety improvements.

By James Hore

FIREFIGHTERS have criticised the county's fire authority for its “lack of commitment and resources” after it was ordered to make health and safety improvements.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) claimed firefighters were at risk after Essex fire service failed to ensure lifting equipment was tested safely, training was appropriate and health and safety measures were suitable for crews attending road accidents.

It followed a routine three-day inspection by the Health and Safety Executive, which issued three improvement notices upon Essex Fire Authority.


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The notices - issued under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 - said there was a need for lifting equipment to be thoroughly examined and tested and marked as safe.

They also detailed a need for “some operational training” so duties could be carried out safely.

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The notices further said suitable and sufficient risk assessment for the health and safety of firefighters attending road accidents had not been proven.

Pete Matthews, Essex health and safety co-ordinator for the FBU, said: “We are appalled at the service receiving these notices.

“This just goes to prove the lack of commitment and resources given by the fire authority towards the health, safety and welfare of their firefighters and control staff.”

Essex FBU chairman, Del Godfrey, added: “These problems can be resolved only if the fire authority are prepared to increase staffing levels and the resources to health and safety training of its staff.

“However, this is unlikely to happen if the chief fire officer accepts the recommendations contained in the Bain review.”

Paul Hill, divisional officer in charge of health and safety at Essex fire service, said he was grateful for the inspection because it was so detailed.

He added: “It was a significant inspection and both management and FBU were involved and attended all the inspections and all the areas they came to look at were found to be satisfactory.

“There were also three improvement notices issued on areas where suggested improvements to practice had to be made and that is something we have been addressing.

“The inspectors were happy with all six areas they came to look at and were impressed with the commitment of the management and the firefighters towards health and safety.”

Mr Hill added there had been excellent feedback from inspectors after they had visited headquarters and workshops, witnessed drills and spoken to firefighters about their work.

A spokeswoman for the Health and Safety Executive confirmed the three improvement notices had been issued.

“There was a three-day inspection in February which visited stations throughout Essex, including full-time and retained, and as a result three improvement notices have been issued,” she said.

If suitable improvements are not made, the Health and Safety Executive could issue prohibition notices on the fire service to ensure no danger was caused to employees or the public.

james.hore@eadt.co.uk

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