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HM Fire Service Inspectorate – management of health and safety: an operational focus

HM Fire Service Inspectorate carried out a thematic inspection to assess the effectiveness and efficiency of health, safety and welfare arrangements in place within the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) with a particular focus on health and a safety in an operational context.

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Summary of Recommendations, Areas for Consideration and Good Practice

Recommendations

  • Recommendation 1 – The outcomes of the Document Conversion Project currently being carried out in the Operations function, should be evaluated and the benefits extended to other SFRS Directorates, including Training Safety and Assurance (TSA).
  • Recommendation 2 – The SFRS should revise and amend the LCMS packages on ARA and DRA to ensure that they focus on how and why to complete the documentation, ensuring the content is suitable for all Operational staff.
  • Recommendation 3 – The SFRS should ensure that risk critical information provided to crews via the GETAC tablet is easily accessible when required, up-to-date and the information available suitable for all foreseeable incident types.
  • Recommendation 4 – The SFRS should ensure that the Post Incident Support Policy and Procedure is amended so that triggers are in place and are activated automatically to support all levels of operational staff attending incidents.
  • Recommendation 5 – The SFRS should identify the cultural barriers that prevent staff reporting 'near misses'. The 'near miss' recording systems, should be accessible to staff and encourage ease of use to improve and encourage reporting across the organisation.
  • Recommendation 6 – RVDS staff should be provided with effective middle management supervision and support to ensure that knowledge and information is shared and staff assessed to the required standards.
  • Recommendation 7 – The SFRS should consider introduction of an electronic asset management and testing solution, which would reduce reliance on paper records and limit organisational exposure and risk.
  • Recommendation 8 – The SFRS should ensure that information related to Operational risk and safety-critical hazards is clearly prioritised with key messages identified, and information targeted to the intended recipient rather than to general staff groups.

Areas for Consideration

  • Area for Consideration 1 – The SFRS core values including 'Safety' could be embedded further into organisational processes such as promotion, selection and appraisals.
  • Area for Consideration 2 – The SFRS should consider establishing a designated SFRS Board member as H&S lead or champion.
  • Area for Consideration 3 – The SFRS should introduce clarity on the accountability and decision making authority of all levels of managerial staff to improve H&S management and delivery.
  • Area for Consideration 4 – The SFRS should ensure there is early engagement with relevant internal stakeholders to ensure their priorities and ideas are considered within future H&S plans.
  • Area for Consideration 5 – The SFRS should ensure that staff understand the roles and the functions of specialist teams; such as OA and H&S, particularly those working within the RVDS staff groups.
  • Area for Consideration 6 – The SFRS should ensure that H&S Policies and Procedures are designed, developed and tested in conjunction with all duty systems prior to issue.
  • Area for Consideration 7 – Documents that contain safety-critical information should be readily identifiable to the relevant staff. There is a lack of clarity on document types and their importance relative to each other, this and the volume of documentation leads to information overload and could place staff and the organisation at risk.
  • Area for Consideration 8 – The SFRS should take steps to ensure that the frequency of H&S and OA audit and review stated in policy, is aligned to available resources and capacity.
  • Area for Consideration 9 – Incident Command training should include the development of the understanding of individual and organisational risk appetite and the implications of its application at operational incidents.
  • Area for Consideration 10 – The SFRS should ensure a consistent level of understanding of the 'Firefighter Safety Maxim' and how it links to the organisations risk appetite.
  • Area for Consideration 11 – The MSK working group should be reinvigorated to address and reduce the number of MSK injuries among operational staff. Operational staff should also be made aware of the membership, remit and outcomes of this group.
  • Area for Consideration 12 – Many H&S events reoccur similar to those previously investigated. The Service needs to be assured that actions previously identified from the event investigation process are addressed and followed through within appropriate timescales.
  • Area for Consideration 13 – The SFRS should consider the suitability, use, provision and deployment of welfare arrangements, particularly regarding the availability and use of Welfare Pods.
  • Area for Consideration 14 – The SFRS should seek to understand why staff are unwilling to report and escalate H&S related issues appropriately and why they perceive that there is a lack of feedback. The Service should also utilise the collective creative capacity of the workforce to stimulate innovation and ideas.
  • Area for Consideration 15 – The SFRS should ensure that FDOs comply with the Occupational Road Risk Management Arrangement (ORRMA) policy and carry out a risk assessment (recorded) post operational incidents, prior to travelling back to home address, where they may have travelled a significant distance, to ensure their fitness to travel. The expectations placed on FDOs at incidents should take into account the need for fitness to travel.
  • Area for Consideration 16 – The SFRS core value of 'Teamwork' could be embedded further throughout the organisational processes to ensure new entrants are encouraged to utilise personal skills and experiences. Ensuring people can be themselves, will encourage broader diversity.
  • Area for Consideration 17 – Working hours and rest periods are covered by primary legislation and should be actively monitored to ensure all operational staff have adequate rest periods.
  • Area for Consideration 18 – The use of data to support decision making should be complemented by understanding 'why' and 'how' the data was used to make the decision.
  • Area for Consideration 19 – The Service should take steps to ensure that staff fully understand the relationship between the activities they undertake and the improvements made in performance.
  • Area for Consideration 20 – The SFRS policy on event investigations should be amended to allow completion of investigations within agreed and achievable timescales with the necessary resources allocated to complete.
  • Area for Consideration 21 –The SFRS should carry out an evaluation exercise, which considers the impact of the pandemic with regard to RVDS staff training in small groups, with limited supervision and support. The SFRS should develop a plan that prioritises any training slippage for RVDS staff caused by Covid-19.
  • Area for Consideration 22 – H&S training and qualifications are integral to firefighters understanding of H&S and to service delivery. There needs to be suitable continuous professional development program in place to maintain competence and ensure alignment to the good practice suggested by IOSH.
  • Area for Consideration 23 – The SFRS should ensure that all training records are an accurate reflection of the work completed and any system 'workarounds' should be eliminated.
  • Area for Consideration 24 – The LCMS system is a comprehensive library of learning material. However, it needs to be designed to meet the needs of all end users, adjusted sufficiently to realistically utilise the time available, and identify and prioritise safety-critical risks.
  • Area for Consideration 25 – The process for determining how new equipment is rolled out and implemented needs to be applied consistently to ensure it is delivered as expected.

Good Practice

  • Good Practice 1 – A number of the SFRS H&S policies and procedures align with the principles within HSG 65 and other HSE guidance documents, utilising the Plan, Do, Check, Act methodology.
  • Good Practice 2 – The restructure of H&S into the Training, Safety and Assurance Directorate is seen as positive across the organisation, streamlining governance and reporting, with H&S as a standing agenda item in relevant management meetings across the Service.
  • Good Practice 3 – H&S teams across the SFRS pro-actively follow up and report progress on improvement/action plans which ensures an organisational focus on the importance of H&S.
  • Good Practice 4 – At strategic level the SFRS has a good understanding of its duties, with regard to H & S and has a comprehensive suite of documentation to support its H&S objectives.
  • Good Practice 5 – The adoption and provision of a dedicated Firefighter Safety Resource to certain incidents, enhances Firefighter safety throughout Scotland. The SFRS should consider sharing information regarding these arrangements across the UK via the NFCC.
  • Good Practice 6 – SFRS senior managers are viewed positively by staff in promoting a strong H&S culture throughout the organisation, with a strong focus on mental health and wellbeing.
  • Good Practice 7 – The positive use of data and visibility of up-to-date H&S information at fire station level raises awareness and embeds a positive H&S culture.
  • Good Practice 8 – The event recording system (TASS) is seen by staff that utilise it, as an improvement on the previous system being more user friendly and with increased functionality and access to data.
  • Good Practice 9 – The sharing of Service and fire sector incident debriefs ensures operational staff are able to learn from 'real' incidents and improve firefighter safety.

Contact

Email: dorothy.edwardson@gov.scot

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