Some sectors have raised concern that the application of health and safety legislation may hamper their ability to do their job. Brian Sweeney, the chief of Strathclyde’s Fire Service, stated that the current environment prevented fire fighters from improvising for fear that they would be prosecuted. He was commenting after the fatal accident inquiry into the death of Alison Hulme, who fell down a disused mine shaft. Her rescue was apparently delayed by Strathclyde Fire Service as the employees had not been trained in mine rescue operation and a volunteer-led mountain rescue service was summonsed instead. Mr Sweeney stated that firefighters have to make life and death decisions minutes upon arrival, and further enquiry at a later date is unlikely to assist. “What you have is the application of 20:20 hindsight to a decision that was made on a 50-50 basis.”
His comments are all the more pertinent in view of recent confirmation from the CPS that three Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service Managers will be charged with gross negligence manslaughter as a result of a fire which led to the death of four firefighters. The three managers had been responsible for making operational decisions at the time, and the CPS confirmed that it considers it has gathered sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of a prosecution and that it was in the public interest to prosecute. What impact a successful prosecution may have on the Fire Service is as yet unknown.