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Failing to manage health, safety and welfare

Hazard Knowledge

All employers have a duty to look after the health, safety and welfare of their employees at work and to ensure their operations do not adversely affect the health and safety of other people. This duty is qualified by the test of what is reasonably practicable and therefore not all risks need to be eliminated. Even when all reasonably practicable precautions have been taken to deal with foreseeable risks, harm could still occur. 

Employees also have a duty to take reasonable care of their own health and safety, and that of any other person, and to co-operate with their employer in protecting people from harm. Individuals should operate as an effective team member within safe systems of work and be competent and knowledgeable about hazard and risk; this will give personnel sufficient knowledge to carry out risk assessments. 

For further information refer to Corporate guidance for operational activity.

The majority of National Operational Guidance provides hazard and control measure information regarding specific activities or contexts. However, any working environment may present hazards including: 

  • Uneven or slippery surfaces 
  • Steep gradients or undulating ground 
  • Unstable ground 
  • Unguarded edges
  • Working at height - refer to guidance for Subsurface, height, structure and confined spaces
  • Working near water or other liquids 
  • Irrespirable atmospheres
  • Adverse weather conditions 
  • Electricity 
  • Sharp objects including: 
    • Glass 
    • Metal 
    • Hypodermic needles 
    • Blades 
    • Plant thorns or needles 
  • Falling objects 
  • Obstructions 
  • Allergens including: 
    • Plants 
    • Food 
  • Ultraviolet (UV) exposure 
  • Hot objects or surfaces 
  • Munitions 

Hazards that are encountered in the working environment may increase the risk of physical injuries to personnel, or adverse reactions, including: 

  • Musculoskeletal disorders
  • Cuts, bruises or abrasions 
  • Fractures or amputations 
  • Crush injuries 
  • Head injuries 
  • Puncture wounds 
  • Drowning 
  • Asphyxia 
  • Burns or scalds 
  • Anaphylaxis  

Personnel may encounter higher levels of risk from physical hazards than could be anticipated. Without carrying out an appropriate risk assessment it is not be possible to establish the correct control measures to mitigate the risks.

Hazards may outweigh or potentially outweigh the benefits of action; it may be appropriate to adopt a 'defensive mode' until appropriate and sufficient control measures have been implemented.

Further information is provided in the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) publication  Striking the balance between operational and health and safety duties in the Fire and Rescue Service, HSE 2010

Health, safety and welfare should be considered throughout the incident, even at its closing stages. The identification of hazards, assessment of risk and implementation of control measures should continue until fire and rescue service resources have left the incident ground.

Exposure of personnel to infectious diseases

Exposure of personnel to infectious diseases may occur in conjunction with some physical injuries. For further information refer to Infectious diseases and Monitor personnel exposed to infectious diseases.