British Politics’s Blog

The ravings of an individual, UK voter frustrated with our politicians

Posts Tagged ‘fire service

Tories vow to address the health and safety culture

with 3 comments

Not before time, a UK political party has committed to address the almost farcical health & safety culture that has built up in the UK, not least its affect on the ability of the emergency services to do their jobs.

I remember discussing the case of Jordan Lyon who drowned last year with an ex-fireman. This young boy drowned even though two Community Safety Officers were on the scene, because these ‘officers’ did not have the appropriate training. The ex-fireman told me that the fire service is also tied up with Health & Safety red tape, to the extent, that if a fireman was to enter the water to save someones life, without the requisite support, then he could have faced losing his job and pension. I was appalled. If you take on the job of a police office or a fireman, you know that at times, you will have to risk your life to save others, very often, it is a judgement call, to have that decision made by health & safety officials is deplorable.

Imagine the situation if all our armed forces were forced to consider the health & safety risks before they went into battle. When you join the army, you know that you may be called upon to fight for your country and lay your life down in that service. You are entitled to expect senior officers to complete a risk assessment and not waste young lives, but not a health & safety officer! Yet here we are, with health & safety officers placing a raft of conditions on police officers and fireman. The public are entitled to expect the emergency services to help us when we are in need, they have chosen that vocation, are paid to do the job and they know the risks. They should not be prevented from doing their jobs through red tape.

Clearly this government does not understand the implications of all this, although that is not particularly surprising, given they are so out of touch with the people of this country. I normally have a lot of time for Home Office Minister Tony McNulty, but here is what he had to say about the conservative proposals. “The lives of police officers and Police Community Support Officers are as important as those of the people they serve, and this government will back the police service in the day to-day operational decisions they make in protecting the public against crime and terrorism. “And we will ensure that the criminal justice system is firmly weighted in favour of the victim, not the criminal.” Yes, but these officers know the risks and they are paid to do a job, they should be allowed to get on with it.

I would suggest he ask the rank and file members of our emergency services as to whether or not they are in favour of all of these health & safety rules, whether they see it as the government protecting them, or unnecessary interference, in as much as it prevents an officer from making a safety assessment on the spot. There are 167,000 police officers in this country, yet we feel less safe than we did 20 years ago, why is that, could it be something to do with the fact that in many cases, police officers are prevented to go into a dangerous situation, unless they have back up?

We are constantly told that the emergency services deserve good salaries and pension schemes, because of the risks they take to protect the public, yet more and more, they are required to take less risk. Our police officers and firemen should not be risk averse, they must be brave, they are charged with protecting the public and they must be allowed to do so. With this health & safety culture of ours, we will never know whether lives are lost because officers don’t have the backbone to go in, or if they are simply following health & safety rules. I would hope that these officers are not hiding behind these rules, I am sure they are not, but unless they also make it clear that they do not want these restrictions, what is the public to think?

On top of all this, I believe there needs to be a very clear definition of ‘reasonable force’, it is currently very vague. There is a need for the public to act in cases when their are no police officers around, or the police are not allowed to act for fear of losing their jobs. Where the public do act, they must be protected by law, they should not live in fear of prosecution. In my view, reasonable force is any act necessary to prevent the threat and the benefit of doubt should always be given to the member of public that has intervened where a police officer couldn’t or wouldn’t.

But the conservatives should also deal with health and safety regulations in the workplace, this has gone so far, that it is simply killing small business who must either employ and health & safety officer or use the services of a consultant. Yes there must be rules because the public and employees are entitled to be protected, but health and safety has now turned into a massive industry and it is costing every single one of us. There needs to be balance. Once again, I hope the conservatives will be bold in their policies, there is no point in meddling, Health & Safety Regulations need wholesale reform.