Fire Brigades Union welcomes HSE plans to inspect fire services on cancer prevention

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has set out plans to start inspecting fire and rescue services to regulate measures taken to protect firefighters from carcinogens.

These inspections plan to cover a range of procedures and practices spanning from precautions at the scene of a fire to how PPE and contaminated workwear are cleaned.

HSE representatives have informed the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) that the plan will be published in April 2025. This follows HSE officials carrying out ‘fact finding’ visits to inform draft inspection standards, which will utilise research on contaminants commissioned by the FBU and carried out by Professor Anna Stec with the University of Central Lancashire. (1)

The new initiative comes after the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer have categorised the occupation of firefighting as carcinogenic to humans.

The FBU has long called for action to protect firefighters from contaminants and prevent occupational cancers. The union’s DECON campaign also demands regular health monitoring to catch diseases early, and legislation to compensate and support firefighters who receive a cancer diagnosis.

Riccardo la Torre, Fire Brigades Union national officer said:

“The Fire Brigades Union welcomes plans to inspect fire and rescue services for measures taken to protect firefighters from cancer and disease causing contaminants.

“Reducing and eliminating firefighters’ exposure to these contaminants is crucial for preventing occupational cancers. Proper regulation would be a significant step forwards, with the potential to save lives.

“We will be monitoring the development of this initiative closely and await further details from the HSE.

“The FBU will continue to fight for the urgent action needed to prevent firefighter cancers, as well as health monitoring to catch diseases early and compensation for those who fall ill, to bring us in line with other parts of the world.”