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November 2008

Report shows safety failures led to firefighter deaths

There has been a sharp increase in firefighter deaths in the last five years, a report for the FBU firefighters' union has found.

The report, In the line of duty by the Labour Research Department found that eight firefighters died on duty in 2007 alone, the worst year since 1985. In the five years from 2003 until 2007, at least 21 firefighters died while on duty, significantly more than in the previous five years. And more firefighters are being killed while actually attending fires. From February 1996 until October 2002 there were no recorded fire deaths in the UK. However in the last five years, at least 13 firefighters have been killed at fires.

"The figures have shocked even me", said FBU general secretary Matt Wrack. "I knew firefighter deaths were increasing, but I am horrified at the rate by which they are increasing. And there is no comprehensive, consistent, UK-wide system for recording firefighter deaths."

The research identified a number of organisational failures, using investigation reports and previously unpublished government audits. Nationally, there is a policy vacuum, reflecting a neglect of up-to-date central guidance on firefighter safety. Some local integrated risk management plans (IRMPs) and risk assessments were so bad as to have compromised firefighter safety.

Training for emergency response is insufficient. There is not enough time spent on realistic "hot fire" training, and not enough specialist training in areas such as breathing apparatus and building construction.

Matt Wrack said: "These causes of firefighter deaths can all be changed, if the government really wants to change them. "Firefighters are lobbying parliament on 12 November, calling on MPs to act on the report's recommendations.

For more information, contract Paul Hampton or see http://www.fbu.org.uk/newspress/pressrelease/2008/11_10.php.


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