Merseyside fire crews say 118% rise in injuries to firefighters shows their concerns over safety are justified

Merseyside fire crews say official figures showing a 118% rise in the number of local firefighters injured at emergency incidents in the last three years is the worst record in the fire service. They say this justifies their concerns for firefighter safety in the face of demands by senior managers for a further cut of 120 firefighters.

A Parliamentary answer show injuries at operational incidents in Merseyside from 2001-02 to 2004-05 rose from 60 to 133, up 118%, the worst record in the fire service over that period. Between 1998-99, when independent records started to be held centrally, and 2004-05, the last year for which these figures are available, the rise was from 79 to 133 - a 68.5% increase and the fourth worst record in the fire service over that period.

Only Hereford and Worcester, Hertfordshire and Northamptonshire show bigger increases from 1998 to 2005, and many authorities show considerable reductions. While the actual numbers injured will vary between brigades, influenced for example, by numbers employed and numbers of incidents, Merseyside percentage increase in Merseyside is very clear.

Les Skarratts, Merseyside FBU secretary said: “Merseyside fire crews have seen the biggest increase – 118% - in injuries at operational incidents over the last three years. It is the worst increase in the entire fire service over that period, and it is scandalous.

“Our concerns about the impact of further cuts on our safety are genuinely and honestly held and these independent official figures demonstrate why. This is not about theory or unfounded anxiety, it is because a 118% rise in injuries in Merseyside in three years is truly appalling.”

Local fire crews are holding a strike ballot over plans to cut 120 emergency response firefighter posts – one in ten of the workforce - 15 emergency fire control operator posts and axe four fire engines at night time. There will be fewer rescue appliances, fewer firefighters on fire engines and a longer wait for crews to arrive to all 999 emergencies. The loss of one in ten fulltime firefighter posts – in addition to the 68 posts lost last year - will inevitably damage the overall operational capability of the Merseyside fire and rescue service. Fire crews say this will clearly compromise their safety and the safety of the public.

Mr Skarratts said: “The loss of one in ten full time posts – on top of the 68 lost last year –will impact on our safety and the safety of the public. Fire crews could be left at incidents in the impossible position of standing back and doing nothing until more support arrives and risking the public, or ignoring basic safety procedures and risking themselves.

“It is not cost cutting senior managers or councillors who will face that appalling dilemma it is the fire crews at the scene. We have very good reason to have concerns over safety as these dreadful official independent figures demonstrate.”

Parliamentary answer

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