Health and Safety Executive plans to inspect fire services on cancer prevention measures

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HSE to begin inspections of fire services for carcinogen protection

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has announced plans to inspect fire and rescue services to assess measures taken to protect firefighters from carcinogens.

As reported by the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), these inspections will evaluate procedures from on-scene precautions to the cleaning of personal protective equipment (PPE) and contaminated workwear.

The HSE plans to publish the inspection standards in April 2025, following fact-finding visits and research commissioned by the FBU.

Professor Anna Stec of the University of Central Lancashire conducted this research on contaminants.

Background and impetus for the new inspections

The initiative follows the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer classifying firefighting as a carcinogenic occupation.

This classification highlights the urgent need for protective measures against occupational cancers among firefighters.

The FBU has been advocating for better protection against contaminants and occupational cancers for a long time.

Their DECON campaign demands regular health monitoring and legislation to support and compensate firefighters diagnosed with cancer.

FBU’s response to the HSE initiative

Riccardo la Torre, Fire Brigades Union national officer, commented on the HSE’s plans: “The Fire Brigades Union welcomes plans to inspect fire and rescue services for measures taken to protect firefighters from cancer and disease-causing contaminants.

“Reducing and eliminating firefighters’ exposure to these contaminants is crucial for preventing occupational cancers.

“Proper regulation would be a significant step forwards, with the potential to save lives.

“We will be monitoring the development of this initiative closely and await further details from the HSE.”

La Torre emphasised the FBU’s ongoing commitment to securing urgent action to prevent firefighter cancers, advocating for early disease detection through health monitoring and compensation for affected firefighters.

Research informing the new inspection standards

The research informing the new HSE inspection standards was carried out by Professor Anna Stec and commissioned by the FBU.

This research aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the contaminants firefighters are exposed to and the best practices for mitigating these risks.

IFSJ comment

The HSE’s initiative to inspect fire services for carcinogen protection aligns with the growing recognition of the occupational hazards firefighters face, particularly exposure to carcinogens.

The planned inspections will likely drive improvements in safety protocols and protective measures within fire services.

The forthcoming inspection standards, informed by rigorous research and real-world observations, will be critical in setting a benchmark for fire services.

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