The range and complexity of incidents firefighters now attend, and the inherent dangers to which they are subsequently exposed is ever increasing. Continuous examination ensures our organisation further enhances the already excellent equipment and training provided.
One of the more recent initiatives this process has produced is a review of Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service’s safe systems of work for crews working at height. This is not a luxury, but rather a legal requirement in that Regulation 13 of the Workplace (Health, Safety & Welfare) Regulations 1992, states:
“As far as reasonably practical, suitable and sufficient steps must be taken to prevent any person at work from falling a distance of 2 metres or more, or any distance likely to cause injury.”
With other Health and Safety Legislation requirements, and the historic systems of work, there was a requirement to introduce more acceptable work procedures.
Firefighters carry out line safety training
The line safety team comprises of seven Specialist Instructors and ADO Mike Ablitt.
All our Specialist Instructors are operational firefighters who since "volunteering" have undergone comprehensive training in; industrial rope access techniques, methods of instruction skills, and examination and assessment procedures.
Where to start?
We consulted with a number of brigades and we are indebted to Nottinghamshire Fire Service who shared their work with us in the early stages of the project.
Regrettably there is little by way of current national guidance for Brigades. IRATA provides copious guidance to industry, but this is of limited use in providing for the unique needs of the Fire Service. A draft Home Office Circular: "Guidance & Compliance Framework for the Use of Ropes, Harnesses & Associated Equipment in the Fire Service" has recently been issued for comment. We have ensured that our initiative encapsulates the guidance provided within this proposal.
An adaptable and simple approach
At the inception of the project, it became clear that we could not provide a prescribed technique to suit each and every scenario a firefighter might encounter. The range and permeations are just too great. Subsequently, our training methodology is based upon a non prescriptive range of adaptable core skills, which can be applied to suit any given situation encountered.
Our terms of reference made it clear that we were to identify and develop a system of line safety, not line rescue. It would have been easy to develop a complex and highly technical system, the net result of which would have been almost certain failure of the initiative. The team therefore developed the training on the principal of "keep it simple".
A firefighter checks his colleague's line safety equipment
Our students are taught four work systems:
preventing personnel getting too close to a risk
- Fall arrest
stopping them from falling
- Work positioning
enabling operators to get to a work site safely such as on a steep embankment
- Lowering and hauling
lowering or recovering a casualty safely
The whole ethos is that of a risk assessed approach. This encourages firefighters to examine all the alternatives available to them, and where possible seek an engineered solution rather than automatically committing crews to high risk situations.
We provide training for all operational members of the Brigade both Wholetime and Retained. This means training over 500 personnel, taking a total of 24 months to achieve.
Training is delivered via a "three phase" approach and all stages are assessable. These comprise;
|Phase 1||Local input by Station "Lay Instructors"
This comprised of the non-risk elements of the training such as; risk assessments, knots, testing and maintenance, and so on.
|Phase 2||Two day course
A two day course held at our Shrewsbury training venue and conducted by the Specialist Line Safety Instructors. This includes all the practical input and is totally scenario based.
A series of half day seminars for Officers who have a command, specialist or supervisory role. The seminars identify how the project impacts on their specific functions, and how they can contribute towards the success of the initiative.
The equipment was selected by the Instructors and purchased from "Lyon Safety Equipment Ltd". We have developed a good relationship with Lyon, and we are very happy with the quality and reliability of the equipment provided. Each Line Safety Pack (one per appliance) comprises;
- Four 60cm and four 120cm Tape slings
- Four 60cm and four 120cm Tape slings
- Two 50 meter lines
- A rescue harness
- A full body harness
- Safety lanyard
- Belay/Descender device
- 6 Carabineers
- 3 Maillons
- 2 Scaffold hooks
- Large kit-bag
- A complete pack cost approximately £350 each
Auditing and validation
The course has been audited throughout. This includes:
- An independent external auditor (GHSS)
- Our own "Performance Review Officer"
- H&SE who have expressed their own endorsement of the project
- The HMI have cited it as "an example of good practice"
- Student assessment is employed through all stages of their development
- And finally, to ensure the theory works in practice, feedback is being provided by flexible duty officers when they attend incidents