Dynamic Risk Assessment on the Fireground

How many firefighter deaths or injuries happen as a result of those poor individuals carrying out a Valid Rescue ... or doing less critical fireground duties?

How many of us have seen or known of a colleague who was killed or seriously injured? I suspect a great deal. Amongst those, how many of these deaths or injuries happened as a result of those poor individuals carrying out a Valid Rescue?

A lot less in my experience, most of the Firefighters who have been killed or seriously injured on duty in the United Kingdom in recent years have been whilst carrying out routine work at an incident that didn't involve a risk to someone else's life.

To be blunt they died for nothing, no building or incident scenario is worth the life of one of our own.

The UK Health and Safety executive placed improvement notices on a number of UK Fire Brigades in the last decade. In response to this the Governments Home Office took a new look at the way risk was managed in the Fire Service and have evolved a system of Dynamic risk assessment.

Due to the great demographic diversity of the UK from the Skyscrapers and densely populated streets of London the Nations Capital which has the World's third biggest and one of the busiest Fire Departments to the outlying rural Scottish Highlands covered by a series of retained or Volunteer Fire Departments.

It was apparent that no 'generic' system of work or procedure could be applied. Therefore the emphasis of Firefighter safety fell to continuing to build on the excellent Incident Command reputation of the UK Fire Service and developing a concept where the Firefighter became 'safe' and became more aware and responsible for his or her own safety. The title given to this was Dynamic Risk Assessment.

Risk Assessment

As Fire Departments we all carry out some form of risk assessment. Whether it be the type of assessment that is carrying out before an event such as identifying the best Turnouts and equipment that we use, the likely incidents we will face and so on. This is termed Systematic Risk Assessment. This feed into Strategic Risk Assessment, where decisions are made about what we do and how best to prepare for the risk, I.e. SOP's, Training Information and supervision etc. We have all been doing this for years. The one thing that no one thought about was the type of risk assessment we have to do as Fireground Commanders at 3 in the Morning faced with a developing incident and multiple rescues. Although we do this, it was never formatted into a workable procedure, a means of risk assessing on the move as incidents changed; 'Dynamic' Risk Assessment.

So what is risk assessment? This is defined as an overall process for the management of safety; a process that involves looking at the risks we face and ensuring adequate safety measures have been put into place.

Does this apply to use solely in our role as Firefighters? Of course not. We manage risk everywhere we go across a broad range of activities in our lives. If you ride a Motorcycle you use a Crash Helmet, if you are changing a fuse you isolate the power supply, if you cross a road you look, wait until the road is clear before you set off.

In the UK we have now adopted a form of risk management that is based around the safe person concept. Every Firefighter must be able to perform the risk management process which consists of the following elements.

  • Hazard Identification
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Control
  • Risk Elimination

The application of the risk management process during the activities we undertake will lead to the Safe Person. There is also a degree of personal responsibility that members will have to commit to if this is going to be effective, theses are;

Competent to perform assigned tasks An Effective team member Self disciplined to work within an accepted system of work and in part of an overall Command Structure under the control of decisions made by the Command Team. Adaptable to changing circumstances Vigilant for his or her own safety and the safety of others Able to recognise his or her own abilities and limitations.
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