HSE International ISSUE 109 - Page 9

FBU WARNS OF STAFFING CRISIS AFTER SUBSTANTIAL AXING OF FIREFIGHTER JOBS A Home Office report has revealed the number of firefighters employed by fire and rescue services has been reduced by nearly a quarter over the past decade. I n 2017, 33,049 firefighters were working in the UK according to the report. This was a 4% decrease compared with the previous year (34,395 in 2016), a 17% decrease compared with five years ago (39,678 in 2012) and a 22% decrease compared with ten years ago (42,385 in 2007). The cut in firefighter posts mirrors a decline in fire prevention work with the number of fire safety audits declining by 14% over the last year and 36% fewer than in 2010. The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) said it was deeply concerned about the figures and warned the drop in firefighter numbers was a ‘huge threat’ to public safety. The report also reveals that 11% of staff have left the service within the last year, prompting fears that low morale is leading to firefighters seeking employment elsewhere. FBU General Secretary Matt Wrack said: “The fire and rescue service is in crisis. Seven years of budget cuts have left the public at greater risk as there are far fewer firefighters left to respond to emergencies. We’ve seen thousands of frontline firefighter posts axed and dozens of fire stations closed with the result that it’s taking a lot longer for fire crews to arrive at emergencies. In a fire, every second counts – it can make the difference between life and death. If the government is serious about keeping the public safe, they should use the upcoming budget as an opportunity to bring the cuts to fire and rescue services to an end and invest in the service instead. “Disasters like the fire at Grenfell Tower show how important and valued our emergency services are. MPs from all parties should support investment into the fire and rescue service in order to maintain a world class, professional service that keeps us all safe.” BRADFORD COLLEGE LECTURER AWARDED £159,000 IN STRESS CASE A lecturer has won £159,000 in damages in a personal injury s tress case against Bradford College. T he judge at Bradford County Court found that art and design lecturer, Kate Rawnsley, suffered depression and anxiety resulting from the negligence of her employer. She was awarded damages by the court after Bradford College was found to have failed in its duty to protect her. In the summer term of 2011, Kate was told her course would be relocated in September to a different room; a room that she did not think was suitable for art students. In July 2011, she wrote to the Dean of the college to notify him that the relocation proposals were affecting her health. The Judge said Kate’s emails represented actual notification to the college that she was suffering, or likely to suffer, from stress-related ill health. But the Dean took no action. He failed to meet with Kate. He did not inform her line managers of her concerns about the relocation. He did not refer her to occupational health services who would have undertaken a risk assessment. She was subsequently moved to the new room. In failing to take any action, the judge said that the Dean had not followed the college’s own policy with regards to stress or acted as a prudent employer. He concluded that there was a clear breach of duty on the part of the Dean not forwarding the emails. Latest government figures show response times to practically all types of fires have increased significantly since 2010 and are at their slowest for 20 years. UCU regional official, Julie Kelley, said: “This case shows how important it is for colleges to follow procedures that are in place for dealing with workplace stress. “Our member could so easily have been supported when she first raised her concerns in emails to the college but, as the judge found, those concerns were swept under the carpet and the net effect was very severe for her health. “She came to the union desperately in need of support and UCU has guided her through a lengthy legal process which has resulted in a substantial award for her. We hope this case acts as a warning to other colleges not to dismiss staff when they raise concerns about stress at work.” See more at www.fbu.org.uk See more at www.ucu.org.uk HSE INTERNATIONAL 9