We can make firefighting safer with our ground-breaking contaminants research, but we need all firefighters to take part, says FBU general secretary Matt Wrack.
Last year, we launched a contaminants research project with the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) to examine the links between firefighting, contaminants and devastating illnesses. The ground-breaking research has been made possible thanks to the Firefighters 100 Lottery, which has part funded the initiative. By taking part in the lottery each week, you are helping to save firefighters’ lives, so thank you.
As part of our research, we need to understand how firefighters encounter contaminants, and are seeking the views and experiences of all UK firefighters.
The survey will now run until 3 February. So far, over 7000 firefighters have shared their experiences of contaminants. It’s thanks to these responses that we will be able to develop a best-practice document and minimise contamination for firefighters.
Results so far are alarming. A significant number have shared their experiences with various diseases, including cancer.
If a firefighter develops cancer in much of the US, Canada, and Australia, the disease is automatically presumed to be linked to much of their exposure to contaminants through their work, and in relation to compensation, it’s up to the employer to prove that the firefighter did not develop the disease because of their work. However, in the UK the burden of proof is placed on firefighters.
This is due in part because there is no UK-based research examining the link between firefighting and cancer. Our research with UCLan aims to change that, to develop good practice and, ultimately, change the law.
But we can only achieve this aim if we have the evidence. That’s why it’s vital that every serving firefighter takes part in this survey.
This important issue is gaining traction. In Parliament this week, Janet Daby MP called for a debate on the risks caused by contaminants on firefighter health.
Our aim is to get 10,000 responses, so we’ve extended the survey deadline until 3 Feburary to achieve this target.
I urge every firefighter to complete the survey - your input could help to save lives.
You can find out more about the contaminants research project here: https://www.fbu.org.uk/contaminants-research