Union says members risk their lives every day, enduring pain, loss of earnings and permanent damage

Tim Lezard

FBU logoFirefighters who are injured at work are entitled to and should seek compensation, says the FBU, after recent criticisms of emergency service workers for seeking compensation for injuries sustained at work.

Such injuries can be very serious, and the FBU released details of some recent successful claims for compensation.

These include firefighters who were poisoned by Campylobacter bacteria during a water training course in Nottingham, which required them to be submerged for long periods. Several FBU members became ill with serious stomach complaints, and some suffer lifelong bowel problems as a result.

Another case involved a firefighter who broke his ankle during a routine drill after tripping on uneven ground at Porth Fire station in Wales. The dangerous area, which the FBU says should have been cordoned off, was instead marked with yellow paint, and the training drill involved the wearing of masks which restricted vision. The firefighter in question was only able to perform light duties and eventually resigned. He received £10,000.

Another FBU member received £20,000 compensation after faulty fire station doors jammed causing him to slip and hit his head on a fire engine. The Fire Brigade had been urged to replace the doors with automatic ones, but failed to do so. The firefighter sustained neck and arm injuries and was in plaster for several months when he couldn’t perform his duties.

These cases demonstrate that emergency service workers are at risk of injury at any time during work and training, not just at the precise moment when they are saving a life, helping the injured or preventing a crime. They are criticised for reporting injuries which are not sustained in the process of protecting lives and property, but these key workers are exposed to workplace risks like any others and should be able to claim compensation like anyone else, says the FBU.

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: “Firefighters risk their lives every day and endure pain, loss of earnings and sometimes permanent damage. Some have to leave the profession, while others have been killed in the line of duty.

“These are not trivial matters, and there must be compensation for negligence with cases being settled promptly – it is the employers who drag cases out for months on end who are responsible for soaring legal costs, not FBU members who are simply seeking to be compensated in the proper way.

“Firefighters risk death and injury daily, but this doesn’t mean they are vulnerable to injury only when they are inside burning buildings. The additional life-threatening risks associated with firefighting should make a case for the path to compensation for work related injuries to be made clearer, not strewn with accusations that they are somehow seeking illegitimate funds. Their reputation for bravery should not diminish the impact of injuries sustained in non-life threatening situations. They are not accident immune superhumans and they shouldn’t be expected to shrug off injuries other workers are able to seek compensation for.”

The vast majority of injuries caused by faulty or out of date equipment could be avoided, says the FBU, if employers made improvements to equipment and training and carried out adequate risk assessments. Escalating legal costs would be kept to a minimum if culpable employers admitted liability and settled legitimate claims for compensation swiftly.

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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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