I have recently published Keeping Communities Safe (KCS) as national policy for the future direction of fire services in Ireland. KCS was developed by the National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management in my Department through a collaborative process, which included consultation with stakeholders, and it was recommended for adoption as national policy by the Management Board of the Directorate. There was extensive consultation with stakeholders, including recognised staff representative organisations (SIPTU and IMPACT). The unions have five and two nominees respectively on the National Directorate’s Consultative Committee. Specific meetings were held with SIPTU during the consultative process to discuss aspects of their submission on early drafts of the document.
Specifically on fire-fighter safety, KCS recognises the importance of the twin duties on fire authorities under the Fire Services and Safety, Health and Welfare at Work legislation. A Fire Services Safety Management System (SMS) support document is being developed as part of the KCS implementation process to ensure that occupational health and safety in fire services is fully aligned with recently adopted local government SMS policy. This follows fire service initiatives which have been developed and implemented in recent years which include the Ancillary Safety Statement Template for Fire Services, the National Incident Command System, Guidance on the Use of Breathing Apparatus and Compartment Fire Behaviour training and assessment, as well as an extensive suite of Standard Operating Guidelines. Under Section 19 of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 2005, employers are required to carry out risk assessments of their work activities. Individual fire services will prepare any additional risk assessments which may be necessary to comply with their statutory responsibilities as employers on foot of changes arising from implementation of KCS. The document is available on my Department’s website at www.environ.ie.