The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has welcomed the Health and Safety Executive’s decision to investigate a new breathing apparatus policy which the union described as ‘one of the biggest threats to firefighters’ health and safety in decades’.

In 2022, the National Fire Chiefs Council published a policy which suggested firefighters could be deployed beyond the “bridgehead” – a safe position set up inside a high-rise building from which to carry out firefighting operations – before putting on their breathing apparatus.

The union has been campaigning against the policy, which it claims would put firefighters at risk of being overwhelmed by smoke before they could put on their breathing apparatus, and would mean increased exposure to potentially toxic fire contaminants.

Some fire services including London, Birmingham and Manchester have said they will not implement the policy, but others have indicated they would follow it, the FBU has suggested.

According to the union, the HSE declined to investigate the policy in 2022, stating that it did not fall within its remit, but the FBU has now claimed that the HSE has U-turned on this decision.

Riccardo la Torre, FBU national officer, said: “The change to breathing apparatus safety procedures is one of the biggest threats to firefighters’ health and safety in decades. We will continue to hold the Health and Safety Executive to account and challenge any fire and rescue service that tries to implement this practice. We are prepared to take whatever action is necessary to stop this policy.

“Our advice to members remains the same: as professional firefighters and BA wearers, they should not put themselves in a position of danger above the bridgehead with non-activated breathing apparatus.”

FBU assistant general secretary Ben Selby urged fire and rescue services to ditch the policy.

“We welcome the fact that the Health and Safety Executive has seen sense and decided to investigate this issue properly. The delays and buck-passing that we have faced while trying to raise an urgent matter of safety were unacceptable, and it is positive that they have reflected on this,” he said.

HSE and the National Fire Chiefs Council have been contacted for a response.

A recent study led by the University of Roehampton, with researchers from the University of Brighton and Coventry University, found that firefighter instructors are at greater risk of cardiovascular disease, infection and illness.

Earlier this year a report from the HSE found that firefighters are regularly exposed to ‘forever’ chemicals in firefighting foam, and called for limits on the use of foams that contain poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and limits on the use of PFAS in textiles, furniture and cleaning products.



Source link