3 February 2014
TO:Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â ALL MEMBERSÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
Dear Brother / Sister
DCLG PUBLISHES BA GUIDANCE- FBU EXPRESSES CONCERNS
This circular is primarily for FBU members in Regions located in England. Â It is provided for information to FBU members in Regions 1, 2 and 8.
On 14 January 2014, DCLG published a document called â€œOperational guidance: breathing apparatusâ€. This guidance has been published to replace Technical Bulletin 1/97.Â Whilst the FBU has long been an advocate of there being national guidance, it goes without saying that any such guidance must be robust and safe.
The FBU has concerns, outlined below, with a number of aspects of the guidance, and accordingly we have written to the Fire Minister (England) Brandon Lewis with a view to having these concerns addressed and resolving the matter.
We have written similar letters to the respective ministers in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales where revised BA guidance has not been promulgated.Â In those three countries, revised guidance has not been published so our correspondence alerts the ministers to our concerns with a view to resolving the matter before publication.
In the same vein we have written to other key parties for example the HSE, individual fire and rescue authorities, and other stakeholders and persons.
There are many areas within the guidance which we welcome and support.Â However, it is our clear view that the guidance as currently written, if adopted in its entirety into local procedures, will not resolve errors and problems experienced in the past which will place our members at imminent serious risk which is a position we must seek to avoid. In our view, in some key risk-critical areas, the guidance reduces the level of protection and safe systems of work for our members as contained in TB1/1997.
The FBU is very clear that it wishes to resolve this matter through dialogue. However, against a background where:
- firefighter fatalities are almost becoming an annual event;
- the findings from serious accident investigations;
- fire and rescue services resist attempts to settle compensation claims from our members when they become injured;
- where managers are placed on trial for manslaughter;
- and where a fire and rescue authority has argued in court that it has no responsibility to protect the safety of firefighters and that a firefighter who was killed at an incident has negligently contributed to his own death,
you can imagine that we consider this to be a pressing issue.
There should be no immediate cause for alarm. Although the guidance has been published, there is a large amount of discussion and work that needs to be done locally with the Unionâ€™s H&S representatives and other officials on how the guidance may or may not be seen to affect the operational procedures and agreed systems of work within your fire and rescue service.
Consequently, at this time the Union is advising members to continue to use the existing BA procedures in accordance with the agreed systems of work in your fire and rescue service. Accordingly, we have advised our officials not to agree any alterations to current procedures without seeking advice from Head Office. This does not mean that our officials and representatives should not attend meetings to hear alterations that individual fire and rescue services may suggest.
In the meantime, we are seeking to resolve this matter through dialogue with the relevant parties at national level in the very near future.
The Union will keep members informed.
Assistant General Secretary