Firefighters and control staff provide a vital public service and are classed as “key workers” by the Westminster government and devolved administrations. The FBU has called on the government to secure coronavirus testing for fire and rescue personnel, along with other frontline emergency services.
While services have scaled back some non-essential non-emergency work, such as home fire safety visits and community engagement programmes, firefighters are at a heightened risk of exposure to COVID-19 due to their work interacting with the public.
Control rooms often operate with a relatively small number of staff, placing them at an increased risk of coronavirus testing impacting staffing levels.
As of 17 April, the Westminster government opened up its NHS COVID-19 testing scheme to other key workers including fire and rescue personnel. Limited testing has been made available to staff in Northern Ireland and Scotland. The Welsh Government confirmed in a letter to the FBU that it would prioritise testing firefighters once it has been secured for NHS staff.
On 24 April, the Westminster government expanded their key worker testing program. The FBU is watching closely to ensure our concerns about the accessibility and frequency of testing are properly addressed. Members can apply for COVID-19 home test kits here and register for a test at a regional testing centre here.
At our last count, there were around 3,000 fire and rescue personnel in self-isolation, 5% of the UK’s fire and rescue workforce. The government say this has now fallen to 4%.
Any new work taken on by firefighters within the tripartite national agreement between the FBU, the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) and the fire service National Employers, must be subject to a risk assessment, proper training, and the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).
Firefighters should not be undertaking COVID-19 response work unless they have been provided with appropriate PPE. Any issues raised through a risk assessment must also be addressed before coronavirus work can commence.
We encourage members to raise any concerns about non-compliance with these terms through union structures. You can find the details of your FBU brigade rep here.
To find out the latest on PPE and Testing, go to the circulars page:
Latest on PPE and Testing