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Judicial review granted over firefighter shift patterns

20 November 2017

FIREFIGHTERS HAVE won the right to legally challenge shift patterns that could see firefighters on duty for 98 hours straight.

The High Court has made the decision to allow a judicial review early in 2018 into the shift pattern, which was set to be introduced by South Yorkshire Fire Authority.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU), who sought the review, welcomed the court’s decision. It claims these long shifts, known as the ‘close proximity crewing’ or CPC system, pose a threat to safety due to an increased risk of fatigue due to being on duty for such a lengthy period.

The case was taken to the high court after South Yorkshire Fire Authority included the problematic shift system in its three year ‘risk management plan’, in spite of having been vigorously challenged by the FBU since 2012, and the shift system having being slammed in an Employment Tribunal in December 2015.  It is also in breach of both European and UK law. 

FBU assistant general secretary Andy Dark said: “If these duty systems continue to be utilised by Fire and Rescue Services, tragic consequences are almost inevitable. It is impossible to imagine how any fire and rescue service can reasonably argue that they can give any assurance that a firefighter on such a duty system would be in a fit state to face the strain, stress and physical demands at a highly challenging incident, an extreme example being that faced by the firefighters who responded to the Grenfell Tower fire. Or the protracted call outs we experience all too regularly when there is serious flooding, when both the physical and mental demands of the job can really take their toll.

“We are relieved to know that we now have the green light to seek a high court ruling on this worrying matter.  It is a source of acute frustration that, in the absence of a collective agreement, a public body has chosen to blatantly disregard a clear Employment Tribunal ruling, and to maintain a system of working which places both public and firefighters at significant risk.”