Ahead of Firefighters Strike, UK Businesses Urged to Check Detection Systems

The Health and Safety Executive issued four recommendations as businesses prepare for a five-hour walkout by members of the Fire Brigades Union on Oct. 19.

Uniformed firefighters throughout England and Wales will be on strike from 6:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 19, as the Fire Brigades Union conducts its second strike over firefighters' pensions. In response, the Health and Safety Executive issued four recommendations to help businesses prepare for the walkout and announced the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Welsh government are working with local fire and rescue authorities to ensure appropriate contingency plans are in place. FBU has said firefighters in Scotland are not participating in the Oct. 19 strike.

The recommendations to businesses are:

  • Review your current fire risk assessment.
  • Check your detection systems.
  • Make sure escape plans are in place and employees know them.
  • Avoid arson risks, such as rubbish left around.

The FBU announced it is also organizing a national demonstration in London on Oct. 16 "to tell the Westminster government to stop cutting our fire and rescue service and to provide decent pensions for all."

"We had hoped our first strike was enough to show government that firefighters could not be more serious about protecting public safety and ensuring fair pensions. No firefighter wants to strike, and it's desperately disappointing that governments in Westminster and Cardiff continue to deny reality over pensions costs and the need for a pension scheme that reflects the job firefighters do," said Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary. "Firefighters simply cannot be expected to fight fires and rescue families in their late 50s and into their 60s and should not pay far worse ratios [in] employer-employee contributions than those in the public or private sector. We hope this second strike will mean both governments will be willing to discuss the full range of concerns that firefighters and the general public have expressed. However, more strikes cannot be ruled out if that’s what it takes to protect public and firefighter safety from these ludicrous attacks."

According to the FBU, a recent government review found more than half of the current firefighters between the ages of 50 and 54 no longer can meet fire and rescue service fitness standards for fighting fires. "And although the government has previously claimed that older firefighters could be moved to less physically demanding roles, FBU research found only a handful of 'redeployment' opportunities in fire and rescue services, meaning mass sackings would be inevitable. Firefighters already pay some of the highest pension contributions in the UK public or private sector and have seen increases for two consecutive years. The majority of firefighters already pay almost 13% of their salary in contributions with further increases due next year. This will mean some firefighters now face an increase six years in a row," it reported.

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