Two fire services in England have ‘toxic’ work cultures

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Fire brigade employees reported homophobic and racist insults, which were dismissed as “banter”.

Two fire and rescue services in England have ‘toxic’ workplace cultures and, in general, more needs to be done to ‘reduce risks to public safety’, according to a new inspection.

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Her Majesty’s Police, Fire and Rescue Services Inspectorate (HMICFRS) today (27 July) released a report on 15 fire and rescue services across the country.

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The organization said that while services are generally improving across England, “further changes are urgently needed” – particularly in relation to staff culture and diversity.

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Roy Wilsher, Inspector of Her Majesty’s Fire and Rescue Services, said: “It is encouraging to see that many services that raised concerns in our first round of inspections have taken significant steps to improve and respond to recommendations .

“However… we have seen some worrying examples of misconduct during our inspections.

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“Two services have found these crops to be toxic and that’s not good enough. We continue to find that too many services have not taken enough steps to promote and improve equality, diversity and inclusion.

“Of concern is that too many services are not prioritizing fire safety measures – this is critical to public safety.”

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London Fire Brigade recently attended to a dangerous fire in the village of Wennington amid the 40C heatwave

The regulator has issued six new points of concern, while three remain points of concern for services from its first round of inspections in 2018 and 2019. These concerns relate to fire safety, values ​​and culture, and fairness and diversity.

The following fire and rescue services were reported:

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  • Devon and Somerset
  • County of Essex
  • Gloucestershire
  • Humberside
  • Lancashire
  • London
  • Norfolk
  • Northamptonshire
  • Nottinghamshire
  • Oxfordshire
  • Shropshire
  • Staffordshire
  • Tyne and wear and tear
  • west sussex
  • West Yorkshire

Which services were of concern?

Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service was the only service to be identified as ‘inadequate’ (the lowest score) in one of the sections of the report.

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That score was in response to a question about how well the service takes care of its employees, with HMICFRS citing “inappropriate language, lack of respect for colleagues, bullying, harassment and discrimination” as examples of the “unacceptable behavior” discovered.

Wendy Williams, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Fire and Rescue Services, said: “The service has not done enough to get its values ​​and related behaviors accepted and understood by all, or to promote a positive workplace culture.

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“Employees told us that leaders are not visible and employees described unacceptable behavior that is inconsistent with service values ​​and that they do not feel safe challenging it.”

London Fire Brigade’s workplace culture has been described by some staff as “toxic” and “pack-like”, with some saying new recruits “have a tough time” and that “a big part of the culture comes from how long they’ve been working for the.” Brigade.”

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This has led to employees being reluctant to speak out about bad behavior for fear of being branded “troublemakers”.

The London Fire Brigade is reportedly aware of the issue and has introduced Safe-To-Speak-Up advocates to improve the reporting of concerns.

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In West Sussex there have been reports of homophobic and racial slurs being dismissed as “banter” and racist and sexist behavior which has gone unchallenged.

Staff said the service was trying to address the issue, but they believed “the culture wouldn’t really change until the older generation retires” – with 35% of staff saying they didn’t feel that senior leaders exemplified and upheld the values ​​of the service.

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However, the service was found to be “good” at efficiently protecting people from fire hazards.

The performance of the Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service has deteriorated since it was last inspected.

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While it was rated “good” for “effectively protecting people from fire and other risks”, the service also needed improvement in terms of looking after its employees.

In its report, HMICFRS wrote: “We have been given examples of discriminatory behavior that have been reported but no action has been taken.

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“We have also heard of several examples of bullying behavior or inappropriate comments made in front of managers with no action taken.”

Which services performed well in the inspection?

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The report asked three main questions: How effective is the service at protecting people? How efficient is the service at protecting people? and how well does the service take care of its people?

Seven services scored “good” in all categories.

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  • Humberside
  • Lancashire
  • Nottinghamshire
  • Oxfordshire
  • Shropshire
  • Tyne and wear and tear
  • West Yorkshire

Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service was congratulated for an “excellent performance”.

Matt Parr, Inspector of Her Majesty’s Fire and Rescue Services, said: “The service is good at understanding and preventing fires, as well as good at protecting people and responding to fires and emergencies.

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“The ministry is excellent at promoting the right culture and values.

“It has a good understanding of its future financial challenges and has identified savings and investment opportunities.”

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Prince Charles recently met with firefighters from Morecambe Fire Station to celebrate 21 years of the Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service

Humberside Fire and Rescue Service has been described as providing “a significant range of health services in support of physical and mental health” (with availability extended to employees’ families where appropriate).

This support includes fitness advisors, counseling, physical therapy and a “Critical Stress Management Process” for any staff involved in a major incident – such as an accident. B. a traumatic traffic accident.

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86% of Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service employees said senior managers have consistently modeled and maintained the values ​​of the service and 94% said they are treated with dignity and respect in the workplace.

What about the other services?

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Northamptonshire Fire Service has been praised for having put in place “effective well-being policies” but reports say it needs to formally monitor overtime and subcontracts to ensure working hours are not exceeded.

While the service in Northamptonshire was found to “prioritise well-being,” HMCFRS said leaders need to ensure staff feel valued and heard.

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Essex and Devon & Somerset Fire and Rescue services are both said to have improved but have had more ‘busy work’ in terms of culture.

What were the overall results?

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Finally, HMCFRS noted that the sector remains well prepared to respond to both routine and major emergency incidents and that there has been a positive shift in services prioritizing fire safety.

However, there is evidence of poor workplace culture and some services have not done enough to improve equality, diversity and inclusion.

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Services must also further prioritize fire safety measures.

HMICFRS also took the opportunity to commend the country’s fire services for their “courage” and “dedication” in recent weeks following the UK’s record-breaking heatwave and wildfires that have ravaged Europe.

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Roy Wilsher, Inspector of Her Majesty’s Fire and Rescue Services, said: “I have no doubt about the incredible courage that firefighters show every day and their commitment to keeping the public safe, and I want to thank them and the rest of the responders Thank you for working so hard last week to keep us all safe in record-breaking temperatures.”

You can read the full reports for each fire and rescue service on HMICFRS. website.

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