Head Of Training, The Healthy Work Company

March 11, 2016

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SFRS ‘to make critical changes’ following firefighter’s death

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) has identified “critical” changes that need to be made following the death of Edinburgh firefighter Ewan Williamson, who became trapped in conditions of zero visibility and extreme heat while tackling a blaze at the Balmoral Bar on Dalry Road in July 2009.

Mr Williamson, 35, died after he became trapped and separated from a colleague after taking a wrong turn as they exited the smoke-filled bar. Radio messages revealed that he had turned left instead of right, and had become stuck in the men’s toilets on the ground floor.

The firefighters had been attempting to locate the blaze in the basement, but had retreated due to lack of visibility and heat.

Last year the service was fined £54,000 after admitting health and safety breaches that contributed to his death.

The SFRS has now published a report into the incident containing a series of lessons and recommendations, which include:

  • the urgent need for a policy on the use of breathing apparatus, tactical ventilation of buildings and improved communication; and
  • identifying a need for risk management training and support for firefighters in stressful situations.

Alasdair Hay, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service chief officer, said there was a commitment to implementing all the recommendations.

He said: “Moving to a single service gave us the unique opportunity to introduce the pan-Scotland programme in 2014 and since then we have been proactively learning from the past to improve firefighter safety in the future. We are making progress.”

He added: “The role of a firefighter will always be inherently dangerous but this report will help us reduce potential risk through more effective procedures and a culture of continuous improvement.”

Chris McGlone, Fire Brigades Union executive council member, welcomed the report.

He said: “We are confident that, when fully implemented, the Safer Firefighter Programme will promote lasting improvements to the safety of firefighters not only in Scotland but across the UK.

“We believe that this report can be the start of that journey and will help us to achieve our shared aim that no firefighter should lose their life protecting our communities.”


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