A breathing apparatus policy for firefighters could be changed after it was branded ‘dangerous and irresponsible’ by unions.

firefighterThe Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has agreed to investigate the policy – more than a year after being alerted to the danger by the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) which claimed it was ‘one of the biggest threats to firefighters’ health and safety in decades’.

Having originally said the issue did not fall within their remit, the HSE has now written to the FBU conceding that their approach so far had been inadequate. They apologised to the union.

The FBU has welcomed the new investigation.

Ben Selby, Fire Brigades Union Assistant General Secretary, said: “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. 

“Fire and Rescue Services should now ditch this dangerous and irresponsible policy once and for all.” 

“Biggest” threat to firefighter safety

Riccardo la Torre, Fire Brigades Union 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.”

The FBU had called on firefighters not to comply with proposed practice and authorities in London, Birmingham and Manchester confirmed they will not implement the policy.

The revised policy by the National Fire Chiefs Council called on firefighters to enter high-rise fires without activating their breathing apparatus.

The previous policy saw the Fire Brigade establish a ‘bridgehead’ in a safe position within the building.  Before moving towards the fire, firefighters would undertake a series of checks and activate their breathing apparatus.

The FBU said the revised policy would put firefighters at risk of being overwhelmed by smoke or other hazards before they could put on their breathing apparatus, and would mean increased exposure to toxic fire contaminants.

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