Journalist, Cherry Park

Author Bio ▼

Cherry Park is an experienced freelance journalist and reporter who specializes in features, news, and news analysis, in print and online. She has written extensively in the areas of health and safety, fire safety, employment, HR, recruitment, rewards, pay and benefits, market research, environment, and metallurgy, and she also conducts research.
July 31, 2014

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Scottish FRS to Face Trial over Firefighter’s Death

Fire in LondonThe Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (FRS) faces a three-month trial under the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 after a firefighter died on duty in Edinburgh five years ago.

Ewan Williamson died after becoming trapped in a toilet on the ground floor while tackling a basement blaze at the Balmoral Bar in July 2009, during which 20 people were rescued from upstairs flats.

Charges

The Scottish FRS is charged with:

  • Failure to provide necessary instruction and supervision, including appropriate training for firefighters in tackling basement fires
  • Failure to provide a safe system of work and to respond adequately to Mr Williamson becoming trapped
  • Lack of proper response to a breathing apparatus emergency situation
  • Failure to prioritise Mr Williamson’s rescue and use appropriate equipment
  • Lack of an effective communication system between firefighters
  • No suitable and sufficient risk assessment
  • Lack of adequate control measures in conditions of restricted visibility and extreme heat.

Family’s claims

Mr Williamson’s family claimed that the watch commander did not recognise a warning of a potentially very dangerous backdraught fire.

They allege that it ought to have been obvious that the seat of the fire was not going to be found by the time Mr Williamson entered the pub again.

The family has also previously said Mr Williamson did not have sufficient recovery time before he re-entered the burning pub.

They also maintain that ventilating the fire by smashing windows in order to clear smoke from the bar made the task of fighting the fire in the pub basement more dangerous.

FBU response

The Fire Brigades Union welcomed the decision by Scotland’s Crown Office to proceed with criminal hearings against the Scottish FRS into Mr Williamson’s death, but bemoaned the length of time it has taken for the trial to take place.

“Until this trial is complete, and lessons are learned, other firefighters will be at risk of a similar incident,” John Duffy, regional secretary of the FBU in Scotland, said.

No date has yet been set for the start of trial, but the case will call again at Glasgow High Court on 9 September.

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