Health and safety management

Control Measure Knowledge

Fire and rescue authorities need to meet their legislative requirements with regard to health and safety, and discharge their duties safely and effectively. Health and safety management should be integrated into fire and rescue service management systems, and should support risk management planning.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) publication, Managing for health and safety (HSG65) provides a ‘Plan, Do, Check, Act’ approach to achieve a balance between the systems and behavioural aspects of management. It treats health and safety management as an integral part of good management generally, rather than as a standalone system.

This guidance focuses on the fire and rescue service’s operational response, and the training for that operational response. In addition, fire and rescue services will need to develop health and safety policies for non-operational activities.

Legislation and regulations for health and safety at work

The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act and the Health and Safety at Work (Northern Ireland) Order apply to all activities of fire and rescue authorities as the employers of fire and rescue service personnel. The acts require employers to ensure the health, safety and welfare at work of their employees and that their activities do not adversely affect the health and safety of other people.

These health and safety duties are not absolute and are qualified by the test of what is reasonably practicable. Therefore the acts do not require all risks to be eliminated, and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland (HSENI) recognise that, even when all reasonably practicable precautions have been taken to deal with foreseeable risks, harm could still occur.

The acts are supported by a series of regulations, approved codes of practice and guidance documents that impose a comprehensive range of health, safety and welfare responsibilities on fire and rescue authorities. Some regulations impose absolute duties but the majority are qualified by the test of what is reasonably practicable.

Health and safety enforcing bodies

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland (HSENI) are the enforcing bodies for health and safety matters within the UK fire and rescue services. They have a remit to carry out inspection, investigation and enforcement, as well as to provide advice and guidance to all fire and rescue services.

Health, safety and welfare policies

Fire and rescue services must implement a policy statement indicating their commitment to health, safety and welfare. The overarching policy and other supporting policies should cross-reference to appropriate procedures. All policies should be concise and provide clarity.

There are ten key elements to effective health, safety and welfare policies:

1. The organisation’s responsibilities

The general statement of intent of the governing bodies and the lead manager should state commitment to the wider vision. This should be reviewed, signed and dated at regular intervals, or following significant events. The overarching health, safety and welfare policy of the fire and rescue service governing body can specify the responsibilities of personnel from the chief officer to the firefighter, detailing key job titles, responsibilities and how and when actions are taken. This includes the provision of training and the duties of specialist advisers.

2. Arrangements for consulting with employees

There must be arrangements in place to consult with employee safety representatives and representative bodies on matters relating to health, safety and welfare, including operational policies and procedures, and hazard analysis.

3. Arrangements for procuring and maintaining operational equipment

Fire and rescue services should have adequate and appropriate arrangements in place to ensure that all vehicles and equipment requiring maintenance are identified, and that suitable maintenance programmes are undertaken. This will include appropriate procedures for identifying the requirement for new or replacement equipment, and determining that it is fit for purpose, matches the requirements of the risk-management plan, and supports the health, safety and welfare policies.

4. Arrangements for identifying, interpreting and reviewing guidance and information

Fire and rescue services’ governing bodies should ensure adequate systems and processes are in place to identify the implications of National Operational Guidance, National Operational Learning action notes and other NFCC publications, as well as health, safety and welfare legislation and regulations. Individuals with the relevant competence should review existing guidance and service procedures.

For more information refer to:

5. Arrangements for developing and reviewing procedures

There must be a systematic approach to the identification of risks and the allocation of resources to control them.

6. Communicating information to relevant personnel

Appropriate and current information must be distributed to relevant personnel on the hazards, risks and control measures associated with their work.

7. Arrangements for reporting, recording and investigating accidents and near misses

There must be a system in place to investigate accidents and incidents to identify immediate and underlying causes. This should be linked to suitable arrangements for preventing recurrence and addressing learning outcomes. These systems should enable personnel and risk prevention agencies to analyse and identify trends and issues.

8. Arrangements for reviewing resources for health, safety and welfare

It is recognised that the resourcing of health, safety and welfare will vary between authorities depending on their local planning arrangements.

9. Arrangements for monitoring and measuring performance

Fire and rescue authorities should be able to provide evidence of monitoring and measuring performance against pre-determined plans and standards.

10. Arrangements to address health, safety and welfare including occupational health issues

Fire and rescue authorities must ensure they have adequate arrangements in place for the health, safety and welfare of employees.

Policies for operational activity

Policies for operational activity should have the important principles of health, safety and welfare embedded within them. The guiding principles of health, safety and welfare in the fire and rescue services are for there to be:

  • A clear and positive leadership from governing authorities and principal officers for:
    • Matters relating to health, safety and welfare
    • Promoting a positive health, safety and welfare culture
  • A named and appropriately qualified person to take lead responsibility and accountability for the management of health, safety and welfare in the organisation
  • Constant and active health, safety and welfare engagement in the service’s activities
  • Engagement of employees, encouraging two-way communication and promotion of a positive health, safety and welfare culture throughout the service
  • Clear personal responsibilities of individuals and processes to ensure health, safety and welfare is embedded into all activities
  • Scrutiny of the health, safety and welfare management system, which must be an identified function of the fire and rescue authority
  • Well-established management and incident command arrangements in place for controlling the operational risks to personnel
  • Appropriate resourcing of safety management to ensure duties are met on and off the incident ground, and while on-call for retained duty system personnel
  • Assurance and debrief management for operational incidents
  • Provision of training to ensure personnel are competent to perform their roles and to make appropriate operational decisions
  • Monitoring to resolve health and safety concerns, based on:
    • Leading indicators; these are predictive measurements that can use workplace audits and inspections to prevent future accidents
    • Lagging indicators; these are output measurements that include monitoring and evaluating accidents, near misses and operational activity
  • Clear internal standards and safe operational procedures, to ensure personnel understand that effective health and safety does not mean avoiding risks but managing them responsibly to protect emergency responders, the public, property and the environment


Sharing good practice within the organisation, and with other fire and rescue services and agencies, enables lessons to be learned from any health and safety event. National Operational Guidance recommends the use of National Operational Learning and Joint Organisational Learning to share learning from planning, incidents and training.

Strategic Actions