HM Fire Service Inspectorate – management of health and safety: an operational focus
The aim of this Thematic Inspection was to assess the effectiveness and efficiency of Health, Safety and Welfare arrangements in place within the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) with a particular focus on health and a safety in an operational context. In doing so we have given consideration to the governance and management, policy and planning, training and recording arrangements.
We have also considered organisational culture in relation to Health, Safety and Welfare and focused on how Health and Safety (H&S) is centred on firefighter safety. In addition, we have reviewed how the Service is using national learning, data and other information to reduce risk and improve the overall safety and welfare of its staff.
We found that the SFRS has a good understanding of its duties relating to H&S (as per our scope and outline). It has structures in place for setting direction, organisational policy, and developing and producing procedures across the Service. These support the strategic planning function and both tactical and service delivery.
The Service has placed a strong focus on H&S and has brought together departments to support improvements in the understanding and promotion of H&S at all levels. It has developed detailed plans, and has structured reporting and monitoring processes in place.
We do, however, believe that there are areas that could be improved and we trust the eight Recommendations, detailed later in the report, will assist the Service improve its performance and organisational culture, reducing the likelihood and/or impact of H&S events.
We have also identified twenty-five Areas for Consideration. We acknowledge that the SFRS already has some knowledge of what could be improved; however, we have identified areas that may be new and worthy of consideration. We recognise that there are a number of ways to address these Areas for Consideration. How to prioritise and achieve this is of course a matter for SFRS to determine.
Within this report, we have identified nine Areas of Good Practice. These were either directly observed by Inspectors or raised by staff as either local or national issues. We consider it important to bring focus on these areas to allow the Service to consider sharing good practice where appropriate.
Some of the findings within this report could be viewed as 'cultural' issues either falling into organisational, managerial or safety-related areas. Some of the issues described are behavioural or value-driven.
During our inspection we observed some inconsistency in the understanding of some of the terms used to manage H&S in Service Delivery. This may be due, in part, to the challenges the Service faces relating to staff turnover, and in the associated maintenance and acquisition of knowledge and experience. These are areas for the Service to address for sustainable improvement in its H&S culture.
Within the scope of this inspection it was not our intention to examine all aspects of H&S compliance; it was, instead, to focus on areas of business where H&S impacted upon operational response.
Overall, we found it reassuring that we had no reason to raise any 'safety-critical areas' i.e. an issue requiring immediate action. However, we recognise that there are areas that could and should continue to be reviewed, evaluated and improved.