Informa Markets

Author Bio ▼

Safety and Health Practitioner (SHP) is first for independent health and safety news.
August 3, 2011

Get the SHP newsletter

Daily health and safety news, job alerts and resources

Capital’s fire service told to improve training for fire-fighters

The London Fire Brigade (LFB) has been accused of putting fire-fighters lives at risk, following publication of a report by the HSE on health and safety management at the Brigade.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) called on the LFB to do more to protect its operational staff, after the HSE’s inspection highlighted 13 areas for improvement – most of them relating to training. The aim of the inspection was to assess the effectiveness of the LFB’s health and safety management system following the investigations into a fatal fire in Bethnal Green in 2004, in which two fire-fighters died.

The inspection, which was carried out between August and December 2010, concentrated on training and competency in core fire-fighter skills and incident command, as well as training in the use of breathing apparatus and associated procedures.

Among the 13 recommendations made by the regulator were that the Brigade should: prioritise breathing-apparatus training for fire-fighters who have not worn it for 12 months; ensure sufficient training is provided for officers who are required to assess BA competence; carry out a strategic review of BA refresher and real fire training; provide refresher training, where required, for employees who may be required to take an incident-command role; and ensure fire-fighter core competences are maintained.

The HSE was keen to emphasise that no formal enforcement action is required and that the recommendations are just that, and not notices to improve. It said: “Based on the inspection, we found the London Fire Brigade to be a well-structured organisation that has a positive health and safety culture, which is striving to improve to ensure sustained compliance with health and safety legislation.”

However, the FBU, which participated in the inspection, said the report was “damning” and “disturbing” and puts the LFB “on notice” that it must do more to protect its fire-fighters.

Said the union’s regional health and safety coordinator, Gordon Fielden: “The London Fire Brigade expects its fire-fighters to put their lives on the line to rescue others. The very least it can do is 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.”

Mr Fielden added that the union was “especially alarmed” over the concerns raised by the HSE regarding the inadequacy of breathing-apparatus training, which he described as “the most critical part of the fire-fighter’s job, and one that can make the difference between lives being lost or saved”.

The LFB must now produce an action plan to identify how and when it will implement the HSE’s recommendations, and the regulator will return to the Brigade later this year to monitor its progress in this regard.

Commenting on the report, London fire commissioner Ron Dobson said: “The safety of our fire-fighters is of paramount importance to me and we are never complacent. Consequently, we will consider the recommendations made and, of course, take any appropriate action.” He added that the LFB was pleased to note the report’s “many positive comments” on its health and safety management system, and on the progress it has made.

But the FBU warned the Brigade that it had “better get started” on implementing the recommendations, as the union will be watching it “like a hawk”.

Fire Safety in 2023 eBook

SHP's sister site, IFSEC Insider has released its annual Fire Safety Report for 2023, keeping you up to date with the biggest news and prosecution stories from around the industry.

Chapters include important updates such as the Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 and an overview of the new British Standard for the digital management of fire safety information.

Plus, explore the growing risks of lithium-ion battery fires and hear from experts in disability evacuation and social housing.

Related Topics

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments