EPSU-ETUI Firefighters Brochure 2012
Firefighters: feeling the heat
Most of us give little thought to firefighters’ working conditions. The head-turning sights and sounds of "blues and twos" as scarlet engines rush high visibility-clad crews to fires tend to overshadow what they do before, during and after. The life-and-death nature of their job can result in the risks being trivialized and prevention ignored.
Firefighting is a risky business, and while some of the risks cannot be properly assessed in advance, firefighters’ life and health can be better protected. The complex relation between an effective response and protecting workers’ health is itself good reason for trade unions to be more involved. It is the only way to put firefighters’ experience to better use. Their view as a work community can give the basis for improvements to working conditions which need not undermine effective responding if the financial, material and human resources are there.
This publication sets out to give an overview of firefighters’ working conditions, and some thoughts on the priorities for better prevention. It is a cooperative venture between the European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU) and the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI). It is based on feedback from union reps from different countries brought together at two European conferences to take stock of their working conditions, supplemented by a review of existing literature and information gleaned from many union contacts in the EPSU firefighters network.
Hopefully, this report on the outcomes of this undertaking will help improve how the impact of working conditions on health is catered to at European sectoral level. For the ETUI, this is a new departure that will certainly lead on to other similar projects. For EPSU, it is an information and training tool that will also further develop its firefighters network. The high levels of union membership among firefighters (from 40 to 95%) in all European countries mean that the challenges can be met. The EPSU firefighters network is a key tool for lining up union strategies and experiences, and for developing a common European approach to improving firefighters’ working conditions and the quality of fire services.
Carola Fischbach-Pyttel, General Secretary of the European Federation of Public Service Unions
Laurent Vogel, Director of the ETUI Working Conditions, Health and Safety Department
for the full report: