- Meeting of Buckinghamshire & Milton Keynes Fire Authority, Wednesday, 9th December, 2020 11.00 am (Item 9.)
To consider Item 9
The Lead Member for Health and Safety and Corporate Risk introduced the report and advised Members that these were challenging times, but he was confident the Service was equipped to cope. There had been significant changes implemented since Covid-19. The Service looked at its staff in a holistic manner recognising that everybody’s health, safety and wellbeing was paramount, all be it differently depending on their role. Members would see in the report there had been several significant reductions in negative incidents, but the Service must not become complacent. The Service would continue to develop proactive protocols and policies that should make it an even safer place to work.
The Health and Safety Manager advised Members that whilst this report was based on performance for the year 19/20 the Covid-19 pandemic (which initially impacted on the Service in March) was and continued to be one of the highest priorities for the Service in terms of protecting its staff and the communities it served.
The Health and Safety Manager advised that the initial response to Covid-19 provided by the Service was the quarantining of those who entered the UK from affected countries at Kent’s Hill, Milton Keynes in terms of social distancing, personal hygiene and cleaning regimes, when it became apparent that the UK would be affected by the virus.
The Service had worked closely with its Thames Valley partners in terms of protecting Thames Valley Fire Control staff who provided a critical service and also in protecting its operational crews to enable them to carry out the statutory duty and protect the communities they serve.
The Service was in a good position in terms of the work undertaken and the measures implemented to ensure adherence to Government, PHE and WHO guidance. All of the stations and sites were Covid Secure. It was now a case of monitoring the adherence to measures on an ongoing basis. Risk assessments had been created for service delivery activities and those detailed in the tripartite agreements; protection, prevention, training activities and for all station and sites in terms of working safely with Covid-19. These were under constant review as the situation was highly dynamic in nature.
During the pandemic, the Health and Safety Department had continued to carry out the day to day work of the department effectively whilst supporting both the ambitions of the Service and the response to the pandemic.
The Health and Safety Manager advised that in terms of the performance of the Service, there had been a decrease in the number of safety events in three areas, injury rate, number of injuries and equipment damage. Two remained the same as 2018/19 RIDDOR and acts of violence and there was an increase in vehicle damage compared to last year. The number of near misses has decreased. Of the 44 personal injury safety events, 33 had been recorded as minor in nature and 11 as moderate.
The Health and Safety Manager advised Members that station plans were being introduced early next year. Each station was given its own profile relating to the demographics, vulnerabilities within its communities and risk and demand levels. Key health and safety matters featured in the station improvement plan to identify what level of understanding and knowledge of expected behaviours operational staff had.
The Health and Safety Manager advised Members that with regard to employee well-being, the current focus of the Attendance Management Monitoring Group (AMMG) was on the structure of the group and how the Service captured and reported absence and whether there were ways this could be enhanced.
The Health and Safety Manager advised that with regards to the Contaminants project update, both the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) and Fire Brigades Union (FBU) contaminants projects had been temporarily suspended due to Covid-19. The work London Fire Brigade had been doing in terms of testing and monitoring firefighters who attended Grenfell (hair, blood and urine testing) had also been suspended. There was still no case law in the UK that confirmed a firefighter suffering from cancer had been as a result of their work. There were many reasons why an individual contracted cancer, however, the FBU Contaminates report had identified a link and the Service would be carrying out a gap analysis imminently.
A Member asked if the FBU Contaminants Report could be shared with Members and was advised that it would be emailed to all Members after the meeting.
A Member asked if mental health was measured and was advised that it was reported through the Attendance Management Group and also formed part of the remit for the Well-being Group. There was a team of mental health champions and mental health first aiders across the service.
A Member asked a question regarding support staff absence with stress and also were support staff working from home and was advised that there was an Employee Assistance Programme which was confidential and available to all staff, which would work through a range of issues with individuals in terms of financial issues, personal issues, stress etc. There was a Welfare Officer available to all staff, and stress risk assessments were carried out if staff were off work with stress as the sickness reason. Wellness action plans were created to help with the return to work. With regard to support staff working from home, the Service was following Government guidelines. For vulnerable persons working from home, there was regular contact with line managers and colleagues.
The Chief Fire Officer advised Members that as they were aware, the Service was inspected by HMICFRS in early November which looked at a number of issues, including the Service’s response in the community, how it responded, how it made sure its core services were not affected and the safety of the community was maintained. Included in the report and inspection was how the Service treated its staff, in terms of health, safety and mental well-being. The report had yet to be published, but the Chief Fire Officer was confident that the report would raise some positive messages about the Service and how the Service and its staff had reacted to Covid-19.
The Chairman asked to put on record that attacks on firefighters whilst on duty was not condoned and if happened, it was reported to the police and the perpetrators taken to Court. It was unacceptable behaviour on people doing their jobs.
The Health and Safety Manager advised that the sentence for attacks on emergency service personnel had recently been increased from twelve months to two years.
That the Service’s performance, detailed in the Annual Health, Safety and Well-being Report 2019/20, be noted.
- ITEM 9_ Annual HS report 2019-20 Final, item 9. PDF 218 KB
- ITEM 9a_Health Safety and Well-being Annual Report 2019 - 20 Final draft 181120- 1500hrs, item 9. PDF 826 KB