Strathclyde Fire and Rescue Policy
Safe Working at Height and Line Rescue
86. Fire and Rescue Service response and the behaviour of crews and Commanders on the night revolved around line rescue policy and practice and the introduction of Safe Working at Height equipment. This sub-section provides some background to that change within Strathclyde Fire and Rescue.
87. In March 2008 Strathclyde Fire and Rescue published two memoranda relating to the introduction of Safe Working at Height equipment and the consequent withdrawal of traditional rescue lines. The publication represented a significant change in policy and capability for the Service and was a key influence in relation to subsequent events. The memoranda are effectively, amongst other things, policy statements on the use and limitations of lines to perform rescues. Their publication effectively removed the ability of Strathclyde Fire and Rescue staff to adapt existing equipment and skills to perform specialist rescues in a way which was very much routine within the fire and rescue service in general. Or at the very least that was the interpretation made by operational staff.
88. This change in policy was one of the fundamental influencing factors on events at Galston.
The Work at Height Regulations 2005 came into force on 6 April 2006. The legislation was at the core of the change to the working practices of Strathclyde Fire and Rescue in relation to the conduct of rescues, including arrangements for the rescue of its own employees.
89. On 14 March 2008, following discussions with staff representative bodies the Memorandum "Operational use of Safe Working at Height pack" was introduced by Strathclyde Fire and Rescue. The Safe Working at Height equipment at that time was not to be used to effect rescues, but only to create a work restraint, work positioning and fall arrest systems of work for operational personnel. In order to provide clarity over the restriction on the use of equipment to effect rescues, this early guidance was then modified on 27 March 2008 by publishing a further memo. This stated 'Safe Working at Height equipment can be used for the rescue of fire and rescue service personnel using work positioning systems of work.' The memo further stated that 'SWAH equipment cannot be used to effect the rescue of non Fire and Rescue Service personnel using work positioning systems of work'.
90. This change had a significant impact, as it removed a level of rescue capability for members of the public which had previously existed.
91. The memo of 27 March directed Strathclyde Fire and Rescue incident commanders to request, when required to rescue a member of the public, assistance from Strathclyde Police Mountain Rescue, Trossachs Mountain Rescue and, where appropriate, Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA).
92. The terms of Section 4(2) of the Fire (Additional Function) (Scotland) Order 2005 specifically allow for that, where it is reasonable for them to "conclude that another person with search and rescue functions or specialist search and rescue capabilities can make satisfactory provision…" Strathclyde Fire and Rescue took a policy decision to call on the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), Strathclyde Police Mountain Rescue and Trossachs Mountain Rescue as resources - meaning that it was open to their commanders to call on assistance from these bodies as they felt appropriate.
93. In 2008 the creation and development of operational policy within Strathclyde Fire and Rescue was considered by the operations directorate with limited engagement and contribution from other directorates. This process has now been reviewed and I have been informed that the current development of operational policy and procedures now has four distinct strands;
- Policy and procedures
- Equipment and appliances
- Area Liaison
94. Each strand is managed by a subject matter expert. The process is designed to be more inclusive in that it considers the impact and requirements of policies in relation to other directorates more effectively. It is the opinion of Strathclyde Fire and Rescue that this is a significant improvement in the development and quality of operational policy production.
95. However, the policy which restricted improvised line rescue that was in place during the Galston incident remained very much fundamental to current procedures relating to the deployment of Safe Working at Height kit until 19 March 2012.
96. Strathclyde Fire and Rescue have been developing a technical rope rescue capability since July 2010 and this asset was declared available for deployment at 10:00am on 19 March 2012. This will significantly change current arrangements.
97. As part of policy development the service will engage in consultation with the staff representative bodies. Part of this process is to determine whether "an employee may be paid an allowance or allowances to reward additional skills and responsibilities that are applied and maintained outside the requirements of the role but within the job function".
Additional Responsibility Payments
98. Additional Responsibility Allowance is a discretionary payment which can be made within the recognised Conditions of Service for uniformed UK fire and rescue service staff. There is a significant variation across the Scottish services in levels of payment and the functions which attract payment which are dependant on local negotiation and agreement.
99. It is widely believed that negotiation on Additional Responsibility Allowance between senior managers and representative bodies had caused this change of policy within Strathclyde Fire and Rescue. Whilst it is clear that discussions on allowances were happening at around the same time as changes to line rescue policy, it is impossible to make a direct link between the two issues.
100. It is difficult without that direct link to make substantial comment in relation to this other than to say in general terms that it would not normally be the case that local negotiations on the application of national conditions would cause a major change in fire and rescue service policy.