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Fire Fighting

Volume 124: debated on Tuesday 15 December 1987

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12.

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment if he has any plans to seek to amend the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act as it relates to the training of employees in fire fighting procedures at the place of work; and if he will make a statement.

No, Sir. The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act already confers general duties on employers to provide such information, instruction, training and supervision as is necessary to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety at work of employees. More specific requirements for general fire precautions, including training in the event of fire, are contained in the Fire Precautions Act 1971.

As there is a duty on employers to make every effort to improve safety and training in safety at the place of work, should not employers regularly communicate at least once a year with all their employees to explain what is being done to update and improve firefighting procedures?

My hon. Friend is right to point out that, under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act, employers have a responsibility to ensure the safety of their employees. That applies to fire or to any other risk. However, the working of the Fire Precautions Act 1971, which is the primary legislation available for the purpose, is more properly the province of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary.

Is the Miniser aware that many British employers are daily and yearly infringing the requirement of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act for their companies' safety policies to be updated annually? If he is aware of that deliberate flouting of the law, what is he doing about it?

If the hon. Lady has any specific instances of breaches of the law, I hope that she will do what is necessary to draw it to the attention of the authorities responsible.

Is my hon. Friend satisfied that the balance in the commendable desire to ensure that employees and other people are equipped to fight fires is not sometimes tipped too far and that some of the buildings in which people have to fight fires have become difficult for people to live and work in because of the requirements of some safety precautions?

I take my hon. Friend's point, but at the same time it must be reiterated that there is a responsibility on employers to ensure the safety of their employees, and that must be a primary consideration.