Calls for better safety after death of firemen

The Health and Safety Executive has asked Hertfordshire Fire Service to improve safety after the deaths of two firefighters at work.

The HSE carried out an investigation in March 2009 after firefighters Jeff Wornham, 28, and Michael Miller, 26, died while trying to save a woman from a fire at Harrow Court, Stevenage, in February 2005.

The fire was started on the 14th floor of a block of flats and was tackled by the Hertfordshire Fire Service. Seven people were taken to hospital after the blaze but sadly one woman died along with the firefighters.

Roy Wilsher, deputy chief fire officer with Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service said that the tragedy had caused deep shock for the fire service. He said: “We know one person escaped and our firefighters knew that there was somebody else in there. They were trying to rescue that person when the tragic event occurred. This is the worst day for Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service for 30 years. That was the last time we lost members of the service in a fire.” Counselling was provided by the service to family of the dead firefighters and their colleagues.

The HSE has now served the Hertfordshire Fire Service two improvement notices relating to breathing apparatus and water boat training. In a letter to the fire service the HSE said: “The current standards of BA refresher training are not sufficient to cover all aspects.”

Tony Smith of the Fire Brigade Union said: We welcome the intervention of the Health and Safety Executive to ensure all lessons learned from that tragedy are acted upon.” Hertfordshire Fire Service has been given until 26 June to comply with the improvement notices and to respond to other issues raised by the HSE. Mr Smith also said: “Such tragedies are felt very deeply across the entire UK fire service. It sounds old fashioned but we all hurt sometimes.

The HSE said that there would be no prosecution over the deaths.

According to FBU statistics, nine firefighters were killed in action between 1995 and 2004, form 1985 to 1994 fourteen were killed and in the years 1977 to 1984 another 22 died in accidents at work .

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