Saving a life v. sticking to the rules

Last month a woman died after being trapped and suffering injuries at the bottom of a disused mine shaft in Strathclyde.  Despite fire and rescue teams being in attendance, the decision was made not to rescue her because of the health and safety policies being followed to the letter.

The inquiry identified a lack of proper risk assessment and inadequate training and planning, not to mention a frightening lack of knowledge of rescue resources available.

The issue of regulations and health and safety legislation saying ‘don’t take these risks’ and the so-called ‘rescue’ services being hobbled from doing what they’re paid for, is always going to cause debate.  There have been a number of cases where rescue personnel have been prosecuted for going outside the regulations – however, equally there have been cases brought against personnel where a lack of action has resulted in a fatality.

Of course, if, whilst rescuing someone, a fire fighter loses their life or the person being rescued suffers long term injuries, there will be an inquiry about what should and shouldn’t have happened.  However, the lack of skills and knowledge cannot be ignored.  Why is it that firefighters in Strathclyde have not been trained in line and rope rescue?  This used to be a part of the recruit course and regularly practised on fire stations.

This situation demonstrates a severe lack of care and professionalism on the part of the officers who made the decisions.  Isn’t it time that all emergency services officers took responsibility for their decisions and did the job they’re paid to do?


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