Manchester Fire Authority not guilty over death of firefighter Paul Metcalf: FBU reaction

FBU General Secretary, Andy Gilchrist said: “We’re disappointed at the verdict. The fire authority admitted a catalogue of systematic failings but laid the blame elsewhere.

“The sad thing is it is in such tragic circumstances. Our thoughts have to be with the families of Paul Metcalf and Reyaz Ali who both lost a loved one.

“The death of Paul Metcalf changed the way fire services across the country dealt with water rescues. Health and safety still needs to be central to everything we do.

“But why does someone have to die before health and safety is taken seriously. We are a ‘can do’ service, not a ‘can do or die’ service.

“The fire authority admitted an appalling approach to health and safety. Part of the defence was that for 5 years the authority was too busy to deal with health and safety issues surrounding water rescues.

“There was no systematic approach. Health and safety was not given the priority it needed and that contributed to Paul Metcalf’s death.

“This approach was mirrored across the UK fire service. Firefighters were being ordered into situations without a clue as to the real dangers, they had no training and no equipment to carry out water rescues.

“There was a catalogue of systematic failures over many years. The verdict is that these failings did not add up to a breach of criminal law but it does not free them from the responsibilities which they bear.

“Fire authorities across the UK have now introduced better planning, training and equipment. Firefighters carrying out dangerous work are safer now as a result of what happened at Simon’s Lodge.

“Firefighters across the country have a debt to pay to Paul Metcalf. But he should never have needed to give his life to ensure that others can go about their work safely.

“The Health and Safety Executive presented a professional and comprehensive case and they were right to prosecute. Fire authorities think they are above the law and they are not”.

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