Training of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service's retained duty system personnel: HMFSI inspection report
1 Introduction and background
This inspection looks at the arrangements for the provision of initial training, maintenance of skills and methods of recording competence of SFRS RDS staff.
The SFRS employs around 7,200 operational staff. Of these, around 3,000 are firefighters who work on the Retained Duty System (RDS) and approximately 400 are Volunteer firefighters. RDS and Volunteer firefighters are extremely important to ensuring the safety of communities across Scotland. Of the 356 fire stations in Scotland, 240 are crewed wholly by RDS firefighters, 42 are crewed by Volunteer firefighters, 23 are crewed jointly by Wholetime and RDS firefighters, and 51 are crewed solely by Wholetime firefighters.
RDS firefighters are alerted to attend emergency calls by means of a pager. They normally live near to their fire station and most have a primary employer other than the SFRS.
Fire-fighting and other emergencies are, by their very nature, hazardous operations. The role of a firefighter is an inherently dangerous one regardless of whether a firefighter works on the Wholetime, RDS or Volunteer duty system. It is important that staff are provided with initial training and suitable ongoing training to ensure they are competent to operate in a safe manner.
The SFRS, as an employer, has responsibility to ensure the safety of its staff, in line with the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and associated Regulations. This obligation includes suitable training.
Generally the RDS duty system allows for one programmed training night each week. It is recognised that one feature of this system, operated by RDS firefighters, is that there is a limited time available to undertake the training required.
Additionally the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 (the 2005 Act) requires the SFRS to secure the provision of training for personnel for fire-fighting (section 9(2)(b)), for road traffic accidents (section 10(2)(b)), and for other emergencies (article 8(1)(b)) of the Fire (Additional Function) (Scotland) Order 2005.
The Fire and Rescue Framework for Scotland 2016 contains specific guidance in respect of RDS firefighters:
'The SFRS should ensure that the current Retained Duty System (RDS) is on a stable and standardised platform in preparation for any future modifications to service delivery which emerge from the RDS Future Options Project. The recruitment and retention of volunteer and retained firefighters remains a significant challenge in some parts of Scotland, and the SFRS should set out detailed plans about how it proposes to resolve relevant issues, including training, for the retained and volunteer Service. As part of this process, the SFRS should consider whether training for RDS and volunteer firefighters should be tailored to local risk and geography'.