The firefighters’ network of the European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU) met on 3 April to discuss issues arising from a recent publication focused on firefighters’ working conditions in Europe.

The European Trade Union Institute (ETUI)’s 50-page brochure has been put together in cooperation with the EPSU. It addresses the ‘classic’ risks involved in this profession (risks from smoke, heat, etc.), as well as the impact of the organisation, structure and funding of fire services on firemen’s health and safety. Firefighters are usually portrayed as ‘heroes’, while their working conditions are forgotten until it is too late.

“Firefighting is a risky business, and although some of the risks cannot be properly assessed in advance, firefighters’ lives and health can still be better protected. The complex relation between an effective response and protecting workers’ health is itself a good reason for trade unions to be more involved,” says Carola Fischbach-Pyttel, EPSU General Secretary, in the preface.

Laurent Vogel, Director of the ETUI Working Conditions, Health and Safety Department, adds, “Most of us give little thought to firefighters’ working conditions. The life-and death nature of their job can result in risks being trivialized and prevention ignored”.

The publication, written by ETUI researcher Fabienne Scandella, is based on feedback from union representatives from different EU countries brought together at two conferences to take stock of their working conditions, supplemented by a review of existing literature and information gleaned from union contacts in the EPSU firefighters’ network.

The brochure includes suggestions and recommendations on health and risk assessment and prevention and rethinking health surveillance at work in the sector. Source: EPSU press release